by Brad Bailey
All the songs in our hymnals were once new. Thus, being new is not itself a proper objection to using a hymn. However, the content and design of older hymns have not been improved on. Without question, many of the Southern Gospel songs have lovely, spiritual lyrics and can be used in our worship without biblical objection. Some of them will eventually find their way into our hymnals and become a permanent part of our body of hymns. Those that have unscriptural sentiments should be weeded out and cast aside. Those that are trivial should not be introduced as songs of worship at all. While popular music is generally on the charts only for a few weeks, or at best for one generation, some Christian hymns have been popular with saints for a hundred years or more. It is arrogant for a new generation to declare such spiritual treasures obsolete or boring and insist on replacing them with their “new” songs.
When someone writes a song that is as good, or better than the old hymns, our church will pick up that song and begin using it in worship. When today’s music reaches the level of clarity and doctrinal accuracy that the old hymns possess, they should be added to the list of songs used in worship.
Even some of the old songs have their fair share of doctrinal aberrations. The old Julia Ward Howe hymn “Battle Hymn of the Republic” starts off with “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”. The coming of the Lord refers either to Jesus taking all of his believers out of the world through the rapture or His return to the earth and the end of the seven year tribulation. Neither of these have happened yet and obviously, the writer did not see this. Also, Fanny Crosby’s “Draw Me Nearer,” ends the chorus with, “Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, To Thy precious, bleeding side.” This again is an impossibility seeing that Christ Jesus bled and died and He is not bleeding anymore. He suffered and died for our sins and rose again. His suffering is complete (Heb. 10:12, Rom. 6:9-10, Heb. 9:28). Other old hymns share doctrinal errors as well, and it proves that any human seeking to articulate the limitless attributes of God is indeed limited in vocabulary. This makes all gospel music vulnerable to doctrinal error.
One point of contrast between the old songs of the hymn book and modern music is that the old hymns had multiple verses. Some of them even had a half-dozen verses, or even more in their original versions. There have been nearly a dozen verses of Amazing Grace discovered. The point is that many of the old hymns resembled sermons with multiple doctrinal points being made with each verse. Also, in many of the hymns, I’ve noticed that at least one of the verses was evangelistic. It effectively warned the listening sinner that the greatest need of their life was the new birth and that God had made the way of salvation accessible for them.
In conclusion, it is critical to understand that church music is not intended to be pleasing for us, but rather, it is intended to minister to the needs that God has for worship and that sinners have for evangelism. Church music is for the Lord. With that concept in mind, three things are important: the message of the event, the men behind the event and the music of the event. Church songs must have the right doctrinal message, that message has to be written by sanctified men and those songs must have God-honoring tunes.
It has been said that unfortunately, “Music in many churches is no different than what you hear in the honky-tonk. It is sensual, fleshly, hyper-emotional and shallow. The message has been taken out of the lyrics, the beat is dominant, and the philosophy behind it is unscriptural. Music is an expression of the heart. Music was not created to be a form of entertainment; It is a gift whereby we can express our heart to God. When a church begins to compromise, one of the very first areas they will change is the music. And when their music begins to adopt worldly styles, that church is on the way to apostasy . . . Worldly music will never produce a spiritual thought in your mind, and godly music holds no appeal for carnal believers.”5
We praise the Lord for all Christian music, Southern or otherwise, which doesn’t sound like the world, which has scriptural lyrics, which seeks solely to glorify Jesus Christ and edify the saints, and which is produced by faithful Christians. Sadly, though, much Southern Gospel Music incorporates worldly pop, country, jazz, boogie-woogie, and rock rhythms, and is oriented toward entertainment. It is closely akin to Contemporary Christian Music.
by Brad Bailey
Original article can be found at http://www.biblebaptistliveoak.com/index.cfm?i=11980&mid=12&id=29734&hm=1