In my Hymnody class the other day, we were discussing the use of metric Greek hymns to combat early Christian heresies like Gnosticism and Arianism. Assuming that hymnody has always had a crucial influence on lay theology, I asked my students what they felt were the greatest doctrinal threats facing the average person in the pew today. In their responses, they included some historic (yet persistent) heresies as well as some aspects of orthodoxy they felt were most likely to be misunderstood or abandoned. Here’s their list:

  • the deity of Christ
  • the transcendence of God
  • God’s judgment and the doctrine of Hell
  • the prosperity gospel
  • postmodernism, or the relativity of truth

To that list, I might add:

  • inerrancy
  • the exclusivity of salvation through Christ

I believe music directors, as part of a leadership or pastoral team, have a responsibility to support pastoral shepherding through the song repertoire of the church. Consequently, it might be a good idea to bolster pastoral teaching in key areas with key hymns. Granted, some of these topics are harder to sing about than others, but I think we can address each issue in biblically rich ways without writing a hymn entitled Against Postmodernity.

Bible with hole in the middle

So… What would you add to the list? Are there songs in our current Christian repertoire that address these issues to a sufficient degree?

In some cases, it might become clear that new hymns need to be written. Granted, that’s easier said than done, and it’s time consuming. And thanks to a pact between a student and I, we’re jumping into the fray and getting our hands dirty in some hymn-writing this semester. I can’t say that my texts supporting these doctrines will be the ones that “stick” over the long-term, but I pray that someone’s will.

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