Here is a series of quotes from some great thinkers on the topic (borrowed from Chong’s Worship). They look at defining a hymn, why we still need hymns and how to choose them well . . . which is probably the most important thing, since the language of some hymns simply does not translate for contemporary people. Remember too that the last good Christian hymn is still yet to be written (shortly before Christ’s return). . . and fortunately we are blessed with a great variety of singable and biblical Christian songs and hymns.
What’s a hymn?
“… a poem, designed for group singing, and written as a sequence of identical units called stanzas. Each stanza has the same line length, rhythms and rhyme scheme as its predecessor, so that the hymn can be sung, stanza by stanza, to the same tune.”
– Brian Wren, Praying Twice
Are they historically literary or musical texts?
“Many of the great hymn writers weren’t musicians… they worked as theological poets, writing hymns in meters that were commonly used amongst the churches, relying on melodies that were written by others.” – Mike Cosper
Do we still need them?
“I say without qualification, after the Sacred Scriptures, the next best companion for the soul is a good hymnal.
For the child of God, the Bible is the book of all books, to be reverenced, loved, pored over endlessly and feasted upon as living bread and manna for the soul. It is the first-best book, the only indispensable book. To ignore it or neglect it is to doom our minds to error and our hearts to starvation. After the Bible, the hymn book is next . . . containing the cream of the great Christian hymns left to us by the ages…”
– AW Tozer, We Travel An Appointed Way
“A great hymn embodies the purest concentrated thoughts of some lofty saint who may have long ago gone from the earth and left little or nothing behind him except that hymn.
To read or sing a true hymn is to join in the act of worship with a great and gifted soul in his moments of intimate devotion.
It is to hear a lover of Christ explaining to his Saviour why he loves Him; it is to listen in without embarrassment on the softest whisperings of undying love between the bride and the heavenly Bridegroom.” – AW Tozer, We Travel An Appointed Way
But even today?
“Hymns are great art! The arts, stories, poetry, music all combine to sneak into the heart by the backdoor – something increasingly important for our ministry to the coming generations” – Kevin Twit, Why We Still Need Hymns in a Post-modern World
“How will you reach this post-modern generation – a generation that cannot conceive of objective truth, cannot follow your linear arguments, cannot tolerate anything (including evangelism) that smacks of religious intolerance?”” – Kevin Ford, Jesus for a New Generation
So how do we choose and sing good hymns?
“[Good hymns are those] which, once heard, are remembered without effort, remembered involuntarily, yet remembered with renewed and increasing delight at every revival.” – James Montgomery, The Christian Psalmist
“The best results happen when theologically deep and emotionally rich texts are wedded to music that is aesthetically fitting and culturally resonant, that connects at every level.” – Ron Rienstra
“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” – Psalm 78:4
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