With only two song battles done, I have already ruffled feathers and stepped on some toes. I’m sure there are many lovers of Christian Contemporary Music up in arms by what I’ve said, or rather by what they think I’m saying by pitting song against song in a lyrical battle. So before there is any misunderstanding, and before I am deluged with an onslaught of angry emails, I thought I should take a break from the battles to answer a few of your questions and to offer this defense of the Battle of the Songs series.
Q: What do you mean by The Hymns versus The Hers? Are you insinuating that all modern CCM songs are feminine? And is that insinuation meant to be insulting?
A: Firstly, when I introduced the Battle of the Songs, I related the idea of the song battle series to the Battle of the Sexes. The term “The Hymns versus The Hers” fit that allusion. Secondly, The Hers refers to the overly feminized characteristics—emotionally-driven, feelings-centered—of the majority (not the entirety) of CCM today. Finally, the term “The Hers” is not meant to be insulting. God created us both male and female, said that that creation was a reflection of His image, and said that that was very good. Therefore my evaluation of the feminized nature of much of Christian contemporary music today is not in and of itself the basis of my critique. There is a place of value for the emotional, more feminine qualities in Christianity. Paul, in Galatians 4:19— “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,”—compares his heartfelt work in the Galatian church to the birthing labors of a woman. Christ Himself in Luke 13:34—“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not”—compares His heart for His people to a mother hen’s for her chicks. Clearly, the feminine quality of emotionality is not condemned in Scripture, so I would be remiss indeed to condemn this quality myself. The basis of my critique of the vast majority of CCM is not that the lyrics are emotional, but rather that they are only emotional and lacking the Scriptural and doctrinal substance that is necessary to help sustain our faith.
Q: What’s the big deal? Why can’t our lyrics be just emotional? We have the Bible for doctrine, so we don’t need it in our lyrics.
A: I wholeheartedly disagree, but who am I? So more importantly, the Bible disagrees with the premise of this question. 1 Corinthians 14:15 says, “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” Psalm 47:7 says, “For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.” “Sing with the spirit” entails singing that engages our hearts and emotions. “Sing with the understanding also” indicates that our singing must also engage our minds and our reason. Colossian 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” How are we to teach and admonish one another if the content of our songs is only emotional? The word ‘teaching’ connotes the activation of the mind. Finally, Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Yes, the Word of God is the primary means of the transformation of our mind. However, as we are making melody in our hearts unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:19), the lyrics of those songs will have an effect on our minds. If those songs are Scripture-rich and doctrinally sound they will be life transforming.
Q: Are you saying we should only sing the hymns?
A: No. Ephesians 5:19 says, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (KJV). Other translations say “speaking to one another” which I think makes it clearer that the speaking/singing is a corporate action and that there should be a variety of the types of songs. I believe there is an appropriate time and place for each type and form of song and that all are necessary. The key is balance.
Q: I think having a battle is not showing brotherly love. Are you trying to pit modern Christian lyrists and the old hymn writers against each other?
A: Please be careful to note that I am matching lyric against lyric, not writer against writer. My goal is to compare the lyrics of the hymns with the lyrics of modern songs, not to elevate the hymn writers or denigrate modern writers, but rather to illustrate the comparative quality of their writings. My critiques are of the words, not the people writing them. Furthermore, the Bible does tell us to contend earnestly for the faith. One aspect of our faith, I believe, is that it should engage our heads, not only our hearts. This is important as Christian are often critiqued for blind faith, for being superstitious, unscientific, non-thinkers. On the contrary, Christianity stands apart from world religions which tell you to emote your way through life, empty your mind and chant yourself into numbness and stupefaction. Christianity calls for us to use every faculty for Christ and His purposes, including our minds. Engaging our minds with our lyrics is what I am contending for in this series. I hope to do so with love and truth.
Q: Why are you using the hymns as a standard for scripturally rich lyrics? Comparing hymns with songs by today’s writers is like comparing apples and oranges. Why not compare the lyrics of a modern scripturally rich song against another modern emotion-centered song? Are you saying there are no modern scripturally well written songs to be found?
A: No, I am not saying there are no scripturally rich modern songs. There are modern writers and musical groups today who do pack tons of Scripture references and doctrinal teachings into their lyrics. DoubleEdge is one of those groups. By comparing only hymns to the modern songs, I do not mean all good songwriters died in the 1800s. On the contrary, my purpose in comparing the old hymns to today’s songs is three-fold: 1. to awaken a newfound love for the hymns for those who have abandoned them, 2. to arose an awareness of the depth of the hymns for those younger generations who have never sung them or been exposed to them and lastly, 3. to encourage modern writers to dig deeper into the Scriptures and pour more of it into their lyrics. Just as aspiring authors and poets may study Shakespeare and Tennyson and aspiring architects and artists may study the Pyramids and the Sistine chapel, I believe modern Christian songwriters should look to the hymns as remarkable models of their craft. A culture with no admiration and respect for and deference to the greatness in its past will likely crumble into mediocrity in its future. Our Christian music culture today I believe is rapidly losing its admiration for the hymns of the past and is therefore headed towards a mediocre future. This Battle of the Songs Series is a call to stop this slide into further mediocrity and return to the rich heritage of the songwriting past.
I hope that these few brief answers clarify the intention and purpose of this Battle of the Songs Series: The Hymns versus The Hers. For more answers to questions Christians are asking about music, visit doubleedgemusic.com. And stay tuned for the next battle tomorrow.