Scriptural Singing

By the Eighteenth Century, writers such as Isaac Watts, William Cowper, John Newton, and the Wesley brothers felt at liberty to compose freely words of praise that were not strict paraphrases of Scripture. But they still felt strongly the obligation of being sure that their words were Scriptural if not Scripture. Often in those early days hymns were printed with the biblical references that justified their content appended at the end of every verse or even every line. 

—Donald T. Williams, “Something Old and Something New: The Worship Wars and Christian Ministry,” 4

Freedom of Form 8: A Wider Repertoire

While we try to pare down His song down to a manageable repertoire, He is expanding it. While we are doing market research to decide whom we want to reach and, therefore, to whose aesthetic tastes we want to pander, the Singing Savior is distributing His magnificent voice across an increasingly wide spectrum of musical idioms. While we are dividing congregations along age lines, He is blending the songs of generations and nations and families and tribe and tongues to make sweet harmony, precisely through the differences, to his Father.

—Reggie Kidd, “Bach, Bubba, and the Blues Brothers: The Singing Savior’s Many Voices,” RTS Journal 1999

Freedom of Form 6: One Voice

Let me suggest that every group brings its own voice, but no group brings the official voice. One Voice sings above them all, and this Voice sings in all their voices, excluding none. His singular voice is distributed among a plurality of people. Just because there are so many dimensions to His own being, the multiplicity of their voices amplifies His song.

—Reggie Kidd, “Bach, Bubba, and the Blues Brothers: The Singing Savior’s Many Voices,” RTS Journal 1999

“Contemporary” Songs

“There are several reasons for opposing it. One, it’s too new. Two, its often worldly, even blasphemous. The new Christian music is not as pleasant as the more established style because there are so many new songs, you can’t learn them all. It also puts too much emphasis on instrumental music rather than on Godly lyrics. This new music creates disturbances, making people act indecently and disorderly. The preceding generation got along without it.”

William Romaine, an Anglican Calvinist, wrote this quote in 1775 . . . critiquing Isaac Watts’ hymns. Yes, that’s right, he wrote this critique entitled, “An Essay on Psalmody” against the hymns that Isaac Watts had written: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, O God Our Help in Ages Past, Give to Our God Immortal Praise, and the other hymns that they had begun using in their “contemporary worship” of the day.

—C. Matthew McMahon