Hymns vs. Contemporary Worship

Sometimes we can think that the issue of the older hymns vs. more contemporary songs (often praise choruses) is overblown. Music is subjective, so they say, and how can anyone say one is better than the other? Isn’t it personal opinion?

I’ve said elsewhere that not all hymns are created equal (I’ve never been in a garden alone with Jesus), and that there is some absolutely phenomenal new stuff coming out in contemporary songs. But despite these caveats: no, music isn’t wholly subjective and beyond critique.McLuhan Mug Remember Marshall McLuhan?

The medium is the message.

Dr. Lester Ruth is especially helpful for driving this point home. Dr. Ruth is now at Duke (formerly Lily May Jarvis Professor of Christian Worship at Asbury Theological Seminary), and he has tried to show conclusively the differences between song forms. He examined the top contemporary songs from CCLI for 13 years for language on how these songs spoke about the Trinity, the atonement, God’s divine saving work, and other doctrines unique to Christianity. Here are some of his findings: Continue reading