Sensibilities and Sensitivities
(Or . . . Elements and Labels Pertaining to Congregational Song)
(continued . . .)
I am somewhat concerned with the definition of hymnoi (for the ancient Greek-speaker) and with the definition of hymns (for the modern English-speaker). I am far more concerned about the actual activity (as opposed to the word) in our times. And, beyond the “person” of God-oriented texts — i.e., whether they are addressed to God in the 2nd person or are stated in the 3rd person, I would say that the topical content of scripture as a whole might guide us today, to some degree — along with current-day concerns seen in the light of God.
What do you think: is it incumbent on modern-day believers to mirror ancient concerns seen in poetic scriptural texts found?
For example, if we see a great deal of emphasis on the identity of Jesus in the so-called hymnic or poetic texts in Pauline and Petrine literature, should we reflect that interest in our own era? Or are certain topics somewhat time-bound?
I’d also like to receive some suggestions from you, naming one or more topics you would like to see appear more in Christian song today.
When it comes down to it, I don’t care much what it’s called when Christians a) sing to one another or b) sing to God, but we need to be able to differentiate between the two. If we’re singing, “Fight the good fight with all your might; Christ is your strength, and Christ, your right,” that is directed to other believers, not to God, and therefore not worshipful per se. I would therefore say those words are not hymnic. If on the other hand we’re singing, “Lord of all being, throne afar, Thy glory flames,” it absolutely is addressed to God in worship. The use of a particular descriptor such as “hymnic” is merely ancillary. Discerning the nature of these things, on the other hand, can intensify each activity, making it more meaningful.
(to be continued . . . opening a can of worms in dealing with assonance, rhyme, and the “sound of words”)