In this article, Gary Parrett suggests that we are wrong to modernize hymn texts. My church, the Christian Reformed Church, has altered the text of a number of hymns (including eradicating the puzzling "Ebenezer" from "Come Thou Fount") when they published the latest edition of The Psalter Hymnal and I have wished the editors (some of whom are friends of mine) had not done that in a few examples. I want to quickly point out that most of the changes were excellent. But I always wish that "let every creature rise and bring peculiar honors to our king" had been left alone in "Jesus Shall Reign."
I'm unsure of where I stand on the issue. I find many of Parrett's arguments less than compelling. The purpose of songs in worship is to help us worship - the artistic intent of the author is secondary to that. And, frankly, sometimes the theology is just wrong (or at least in disagreement with ours) and needs "fixing". Also, "Good Christian Men, Rejoice" is blatantly sexist - I much prefer the Psalter Hymnal's revision - "Good Christian Friends Rejoice." I think that clearly there is a time and place for revision. The question is, of course, how much and when.
I'd love to hear comments from readers on this!
9 months ago