The Trinity Hymnal is well known for some of the changes it has made to beloved, but non-Reformed hymns. Basically, if Fanny Crosby wrote it, it has got to be included, and so we should make a few adjustments here and there to pacify the Ruling elders.
Some of this is, of course, good and necessary. My problem, however, is that in our zeal to promote a pop-theology where every word is dissected, we often over-reach.
For instance, “Opened the life gate that all may go in.” This gets changed to “that we may go in.” The congregation generally doesn’t pay any attention to the new version though and instead sings “all” just as loud.
Is this really an issue? Doesn’t the Bible use “all” language? May there not be a sense in which “that all may go in” is true? Any sense?
Another song had the phrase “He died to make men good.” This is too close to infused righteousness. But is it? Is it not equally true that sanctification is rooted in the cross just as justification? Could men be good apart from the death of Christ?
And perhaps the most famous and most interesting dispute regarding the language of hymns comes from “And Can It Be.” You know, “that thou my God should die for me.”
Oh mama, everybody panic. God doesn’t die. Heresy heresy heresy. We knew the Wesleys were bad.
But wait just a tootin’ minute here. Someone else said that whole “God doesn’t die” bit. Two someones, at least. What were their names again? Oh yes, Arius and Nestorius. Those were the guys.
Wesley’s words are actually quite orthodox, and the over-zealous hymnody police have gotten too big for their britches. Would have been better to not have said anything in the first place wouldn’t it?
This topic is reflective of the larger problem of theological carelessness, decked out in the garb of scholarship all fueled by a desire to tell people off. We should have theologically correct hymns, as well as theologically correct tunes for that matter, but often the typical Reformed rammering is all misplaced. Take a chill pill, man.
Of course, a good way to ensure theological soundness is to load down the service with Psalms and Biblical Songs. That would be a good start.