Sunday, October 24, 2010

Doctrine matters

Recently I had a new visitor to my blog, Pastor “Amberg,”† who suggested additional hymns for my list of recommended Advent hymns. Like fellow LCMS clergyman Josh Osbun, Pastor Amberg has his own blog. (Vicar Osbun, alas, has suspended blogging after the birth of his stillborn son.)

Pastor Amberg’s blog, Lutheran Hymn Revival, quotes Ambrose and Fortunatus (among others) in the sidebar: this is my kind of Lutheran, so I subscribed immediately.

Browsing recent posts to the blog, I was drawn to one entitled “Purity of Doctrine”. Some relevant excerpts:
The praise of the Bible is always talking about what God has done for poor sinners and when the psalmist does speak of his reaction to God, it is always for a didactic reason (e.g., Psalm 139:14,ff)

The praise of pop Christian culture rarely mentions the forgiveness of sins and often speaks of our (insert incredible adjective) reaction to how (insert awesome adjective) God is.  The author of "In Christ Alone", the best contemporary song I've heard, makes similar remarks in an interview.

And so I don't think we should be perfectly fine with Lutheran churches looking for worship songs from sects that deny that Christ wants to give the forgiveness of sins in His Supper and in Baptism, the very foundation for the Christian life.  This is not a matter of music.  This is a matter of identity.  The pure Word of God defines who we are. Wouldn't it be unwise at the very least and sinful at the worst to throw out rashly hundreds of years of time-tested music and words for the sake of satisfying the capricious musical cravings of a spoiled- (I pray not completely) rotten, entertainment-driven generation?  If I were to ask my 3 year-old what he wants to eat, he would choose chocolate cake every day.  This generation would choose over-emotionalized sweets.  But who has the real love to refuse them these sweets and give them the nourishment they need?  And we wonder why they never grow. …
Elsewhere in his blog, Amberg has criticism of the doctrine of specific Anglican or Methodist hymns.I don’t know that I’d share all his criticisms of these hymns, but I completely agree with his view on the importance of hymn doctrine and the general vacuousness of most CCM or other praise music.

This is also another reason why hymnals are important: a hymnal codifies a church’s doctrine and minimizes deviations from doctrine. It doesn’t matter whether the hymnal is photocopied, oversewn or a PDF: what matters is that it has been vetted the same as any other part of the liturgy. As Anglicans, we don’t allow just anything to be read as scripture or prayer, so of course the hymn selection should be put to the same test.

† Elsewhere the blog implies that the pastor‘s real name is Mark Preus

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