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Thursday, July 15, 2010 

Children’s Hymns Have More Depth Theologically Than Contemporary Worship Songs

Back on June 26, Dr. T. David Gordon, author of Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal was on my favorite radio program Issues, Etc. Today’s Issues, Etc. Today's Issues, Etc. soundbite of the day is from that interview and has Dr. Gordon making the case that there are some children's hymns that have more depth theologically than contemporary worship songs.

The entire interview can be heard here.

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It's great how you and Dr. Gordon can both make the assumption that because something is contemporary it is automatically childish. If you were to go through and pick out individual contemporary worship songs and pick them apart, have at it. Certainly there is a problem with the dumbing down of the church and it's manifested in songs, books, etc. If you dig into the hymnal sometime you'll find a few bad eggs, too.

Roger, I’m not (nor is Dr. Gordon) assuming that everything contemporary is automatically childish. What Dr. Gordon is saying and I think he makes a compelling case that our popular culture has changed what is being sung during our worship services. When I say our I mean our as this has influenced Lutheran Sunday mornings just as much as the rest of Americanized Christianity. If we listen to what is on the radio we have to be honest and admit that many times modern worship songs are indistinguishable in style from top 40 love songs. But more than how these songs sound look at what they say or don’t say. That is Dr. Gordon’s point in the clip.

I agree with you 110% that there are bad hymns in the hymnal as well. Even in our very good LSB hymnal it’s too easy to find the duds because they are abundant. Part of Dr. Gordan’s concern is that by letting pop culture have such a strong and direct influence on our hymnody we are separating ourselves from the singing church of all times and all places and moving towards a more generational church where individualistic tastes define us instead of a sung confession of faith.


I found his remark that a lot of what is being promoted as contemporary christian worhip songs makes a child’s hymn look like a Gerhard hymn by comparison to be both profound and saddening. I do enjoy contemporary hymns but I find that there are precious few that speak clearly of Christ and His gifts in a way that a singing, confessing church should insist.

"Jesus Loves Me" is the simplest song, I think, in my book-in-progress of illustrated hymns for children. It ranges from that to "O Love, How Deep," which I learned to love at a certain youth conference in '07.

This clip makes me feel a bit more encouraged about using the former for the book.

I bought Dr. Gordon's book after his interview on Issues, Etc. It is well worth the price as he fleshes out some of the arguments that he used on the radio program. I highly recommend Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns"

This wouldn't be hard. I reviewed 3 worship services' worth of CCM songs and found almost enough theological content to fill a bumper sticker.

Sorry, I forgot to provide this link apropos my previous comment.

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  • From The Haut South
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