Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Rubbish Hymns

Some hymns are rubbish. After reading R. Scott Clark on Recovering the Reformed Confession, I'm wondering if we should be singing uninspired hymns at all. A great argument for the RPW is the amount of dross that we sing.

Here is but a sampling of hymns old and new with rubbish lyrics:

Oh, I feel like dancing, it's foolishness I know. But when the world has seen the light, they will dance with joy like we're dancing now. [I thought the world saw the light but hated it because they loved darkness? (John 3:19)]

Jesus, lover of my soul, all consuming fire is in your gaze (so far, so passable). Jesus, I want you to know, I will follow you all my days. [Peter said something similar before bottling it before a little girl beside a fire]

I will dance, I will sing, to be mad for my King. Nothing Lord is hindering, the passion in my soul [maybe some Valium would stop you dancing like an idiot? If this alludes to David dancing before the Lord, why doesn't the song advocate stripping to the underpants too?]

You're my all, you're the best [there is something awfully cheesy about saying "You're the best Jesus!"]

You ask me how I know he lives?, he lives within my heart. [nothing here about the self-authenticating Word of God through the preached Gospel of the crucified and risen Christ. Pure pietist poo.]

Jehova Tsidkenu meant nothing to me [I suspect "Jehova Tsikdenu" still means nothing to those who sing it]

These are the days of Elijah, declaring the word of the Lord [where do I start with this?]

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, your love makes me sing [the only time Hallelujah is sung in the NT it's in Revelation 19:1-8 where the saints are celebrating God's judgement on the wicked. "Hallelujah, Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgements are true and just: for he has judged the great prostitute" (v1, 2). Maybe some of our boyband worship leaders should pen a song with the lyrics "The smoke goes up from her forever"?]

I like the Bible, I read it and I do it ["like" the Bible? And do what exactly?]

Any more examples of truly pants lyrics in our songs, ancient and modern will be delightfully received in a spirit of loving cynicism.


Steven Carr said...


I'm a psalm-singer myself, but the Jehovah Tsidkenu, which was written by Robert Murray M'Cheynne, is a pretty decent song, despite the horrible English transliteration of the Hebrew. Jehovah Tsidkenu=the Lord our righteousness was a watchword of the Reformation.

On another note (but related to the post), I dsicovered that the Hymn "Faith of Our Fathers", written by Frederick Faber, was originally published in Faber's hymnbook Jesus and Mary--Catholic Hymns for Singing and Reading. One of the verses you won't find in Protestant hymnbooks is: "Faith of our Father! Mary's prayers/Shall win our country (England) back to thee/And through the truth (doctrines of the papist church) that comes from God/England shall then indeed be free."

Fredrick Faber in that song was writing an apologetic for the Roman faith. He followed John Henry Newman out of the Church of England into the Roman Catholic Church. Makes you think twice about singing that song--eh?

Nick Mackison said...

Or anything else by Faber!

There are some decent verses in the McCheyne hymn. I just don't like the verses of personal testimony, (i.e. I wept when the waters, etc). "When this passing world is done" is far superior.

Dougie said...

agreed, many of our hymns (the modern ones anyway) come from a pentecostal / charismatic background which is why so many of them are experience based, Jesus is my boyfriend.

What has been worrying me slightly at the moment is some of the kids songs we sing. For example we were discussing the other day 'The wise man built his house upon the rock and the rains came tumbling down.' A jaunty, catchy old kids song. I think we need catchy toons and songs for young people to sing but are we making the subject matter way, way too light? Actually think about what happens to the man who doesn't hear Jesus' words and put them into practice. His house doesn't just go SPLAT.

As for the RPW, I've been reading Frame on this in Doctrine of the Christian Life and Worship in Spirit and Truth. Nick, if you mean by 'inspired songs', only Psalms or bible verses, I'm not sure I agree. Yes I would love to sing more Psalms, but I don't think the bible restricts us to it.

Nick Mackison said...

Dougie, I share your concerns re kids choruses.

I'm still unconvinced about totally ditching non-canonical songs too. There are so many scripture soaked hymns that have an amazing didactic impact on those singing. Nevertheless, that's a personal preference. Can I justify it biblically? Frame, as far as I'm aware, doesn't advocate the RPW in its historic sense.

Peter Bogert said...

One of my favorite goofy songs:

You may have the joy-bells ringing in your heart.
And a peace that never will from you depart;
Walk the straight and narrow way,
Live for Jesus every day.
He will keep the joy-bells ringing in your heart

Joy bells ringing in your heart
Joy bells ringing in your heart
Take the Savior here below
With you everywhere you go
He will keep the joy bells ringing in your heart.

J. Edward Ruark/William J. Kirkpatrick

There are 3 more verses too!!

Nick Mackison said...

That's sooo bad

Peter Bogert said...

There are tons of those songs in our hymnals. I call them Pirate songs. If I can envision some pirates singing the song (some in the rigging, some on the deck), and the theology is bad, I refuse to use it. :-)

Nick Mackison said...


Peter Bogert said...

I actually scripted the "You May Have the Joy Bells" song some time ago to reflect special appearances by the beer wench, the little guy who pops out of the crow's nest, and the parrot on the Captain's shoulder.


Danny said...

The Advent Song... truly pants lyrics and a tune/sentiments that remind me of a Coca Cola advert that you will be far too young to remember! Anyway some of it is reproduced here:


Danny said...


Thought you might like this Worship Star clip... wonderfully cynical!

Peter Bogert said...