Old vs. New Music, More Than Just a Noise Problem

"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee."

-Augustus Toplady, 1776

I remember hearing this song when I was little. Mostly, I had no idea what I was singing. This was the story with many hymns. I never heard anyone speak that way. In fact, I would say that it wasn't until mid-college that I began to appreciate and understand the intense, poetic, mature language. It only makes sense that as a person matures in Christ, he or she would gain more wisdom and discernment.

I like to think of many modern worship songs like new Christians. They are somewhat different than secular songs, but not very. They talk about God and Jesus in very general terms. They might not be full of deep truths, but they teach a new believer what it means to worship through song. It makes the transition a little easier.

Hymns are more mature in sound and content. Sometimes one has to be reasonably intelligent just to sort through the syntax and vocabulary. What does it mean to be cleft? How could my zeal know respite? Even now, I have to break it down to really see how "Rock of Ages" is full of deep truth. This meaning is probably veiled to an unbeliever, and possibly very difficult for a new or young believer, or even a mature believer who doesn't have the greatest receptive language abilities.

I submit that the desire for people to sing more "modern" songs comes from a lack of understanding, not just stylistic preferences.


aliosh said...

I've thought that recently, too. At Lakeland, the stylistic differences often cited between hymns and modern praise songs are eradicated with electric, bass, acoustic, and drums quite handily. What is left for us to compare, then, is the lyrical content...which you explained quite articulately. The depth of meaning in the poetic hymns of our faith is hard to find in much of the more simplistic modern music...hard to find, but not wholly impossible.

Shannon Anderson said...

We have finally settled on First Baptist Savoy. We went to Windsor Road Christian for a while... but we felt more called to the Baptist church. Where did you go when you were up here?

Madly Hatter said...

Hmm...that may indeed be the case in many circumstances. It's all about what makes people comfortable. While many are uncomfortable with anything sounding like a hymn, there are others that will be unhappy with anything else.

Shannon Anderson said...

I have heard of Garden Hills, but I haven't heard of TBC. Are both of those large student churches?