While this article might be old news, I just came across it a few weeks ago and thought that it was interesting. The Baptist Press published an aritcle on Oct. 9, 2007 that LifeWay is publishing a revised Baptist Hymnal to come out in 2008. Here are a few interesting quotes from the article:
- “We began our look at the hymns and songs with the new additions to the Baptist Hymnal,” Harland said. “The new hymnal will have about 650 songs included, and about 300 of these songs will be new ones to our hymnal. Of these 300, about 200 have been published in other hymnals and about 100 are brand-new hymns and songs that haven’t been published in any hymnal before.”
- In a separate interview with Joe Duncan, he was asked the question, “Why be so particular/precise about the theology in the hymns?” He responded, “The hymnal is more than a “song book” to meet a utilitarian need for the congregants. This hymnal, as with past Baptist Hymnals, serves many functions, including providing a historical document of doctrinal beliefs of the family of faith known as Baptists. Our major concern is that the hymnal represents a truly “Christocentric” (Christ-centered) and Trinitarian theology. While Baptists reflect many theological systems, nearly all can find agreement that our theology is first and foremost Christocentric. Our aim is that this hymnal, as with past ones, speaks accurately of Jesus Christ — fully God, fully man and the only means to salvation.”
As each reviewer walks through each hymn up for addition, they are checking the song’s suitability based on a series of 11 questions including: Is it God honoring? Does it cover the depth and breadth of our theology? Does it engage the whole person – allowing a person to express his deepest feelings? Does the hymn speak biblically about the church? etc . . .
Personally, I like hymns. When I went to the mission field, I took a Baptist Hymnal with me. I like the organ and like to sing most hymns. However, I am also a fan of contemporary music, but not the short & sweet praise choruses. Beth and I both really enjoy the music coming out of Sovereign Grace and also the work Keith and Kristen Getty have produced. Hymns seem to tell stories; they teach us along with providing words for us to express our worship to God. So when I came across this story, I was intrigued. But I have to wonder this, which 300 songs will be removed to make room for these new 300 coming in? But this led me to further pondering the use of the Hymnal. In our church here in da ‘Ville, we have Hymnals in each pew, but we never use them. All of our songs are up on the screen, even the hymns that we sing. Occasionally, you will see a few people use the Hymnal, but not many.
So, is the Hymnal relevant? Well, the article does mention that the first part of the process will be a “downloadable audio hymn and worship song repository from which the updated hardbound Baptist Hymnal will be drawn” which I would assume churches could then use to upload on the screen. However, for those who do not, will they ‘upgrade’ to the new hymnal? How much would it cost your average SBC church to buy all new 2008 Baptist Hymnals? And if some of these are quite traditional (you know, the ones who know every hymn and it’s number), will they be willing to change to a new hymnal and even try out new songs? Just some questions that have popped into my mind over the past few weeks as I have been thinking about this change to come. Let me know your thoughts if you have any . . .