07 February 2008

"Singable Doctrine"

There's an interesting article in the current issue of Christianity Today called "Singable Doctrine." It's an interview with Keith and Kristyn Getty, songwriters specializing in "modern hymns" that attempt to go deeper (doctrinally and existentially) than the modern worship movement has gone. If you know the song "In Christ Alone" (made popular by the Newsboys), you know the Gettys. Here's a few snippets from CT's interview.

Keith (on his emphasis on doctrine): "I wanted to do two things. One was to write songs that helped teach the faith, and the second was to write songs that every generation could sing. I don't think of music as only teaching, but I do think that what we sing profoundly affects how we think."

(On their success): "If you took a list of subjects, say, attributes of God in the Psalms, probably only 10 percent of them are used in virtually the entire canon of modern worship music. Modern worship songs tend to have a very thin range of subjects. They also tend to explore subjects in a less deep way than traditional hymnody does."

(In answer to "In a worship service, is there an ideal mix between contemporary worship, modern hymns, and classic hymns?") "I don't think there's an answer. You choose great songs that have great words and sing well. Every word you give people on a Sunday has to count for something. The same thing applies to what is sung - in fact, in some ways even more so. . . . If members of a congregation aren't singing, serious questions must be asked, no matter how good the show is at the front."

This was a very good (but short) article, especially for someone like me, who, on this blog, has at times been critical of modern worship and contemporary Christian music. The philosophy of the Gettys resonates with me. They are right: so much of modern worship is shallow and does not really touch on deep thinking or profound doctrine. Don't get me wrong; there is occasionally beauty in the simplicity of a "How Great is Our God" or a "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord," and for that I'm appreciative. But we Christians tend only to go as deep as we are led, and often that's about an inch deep. Emotionally, we go deep, but intellectually, we often don't.

I'll offer more on this another day. For now, I must go to work.

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