Theologically sound hymns with upbeat music

Discussion in 'Worship' started by Herald, Aug 1, 2009.

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  1. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    As an extension of "When a hymn is objected to in worship" thread; what is your opinion of theologically sound hymns that are put to more upbeat or contemporary melodies? One specific genre of music comes from Sovereign Grace Ministries (of Mark Altrogge, GLAD fame). It seems that many of their songs are spot on theologically. Some are slower; contemplative and worshipful. Others are a bit more upscale; not rock but definitely contemporary.

    I would like to know what the PB community thinks about these songs and using them in worship.
  2. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    The style is not nearly as important as the substance, so while I may not particularly like a tune, I can't object theologically, just stylistically.
  3. AThornquist

    AThornquist Puritan Board Doctor


    Personally, I love Sovereign Grace Ministries' music. My favorite song ("Jesus, Thank You") is done by them in fact. I prefer a contemporary style as long as the music is theologically accurate and rich. If it is for entertainment or to appeal to nominal Christians, I think it's trash. It's about content. This is the same for traditional music or singing a cappella though; if a style is preferred in order to be "more churchy," allegedly (though falsely) "orthodox," or have some sort of false piety, I likewise think it's trash.
  4. nicnap

    nicnap Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I have my preferences, but I will give a thought provoking quote from a Reformed minister..."There is no such thing as Christian music, only Christian lyrics."

    I will not say whether I agree, but it does give pause.
  5. Scottish Lass

    Scottish Lass Puritan Board Doctor

    I worshipped at a PCA last Sunday that does this--the lyrics are left alone, but the musical arrangement behind the lyrics is updated. I found it often made it easier to sing, but I'm probably in the minority camp. I also love to sing the Psalms, even with older music, especially when it's not super slow, so I probably don't fit in a specific category.
  6. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    I like it.
  7. Edelfäule

    Edelfäule Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm curious - what is the purpose of changing the musical composition? Would it be to appeal to some sort of emotion?
  8. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Josh, really :) . There's a reason for my madness.
  9. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor

    Our church does use them in Worship in our early service, and some of them in our later service.

    When we Worship God, it's not only in a logical manner, but with our emotions as well, even our prayers should have some type of emotion behind them, or are we to feel nothing emotionally when we Worship God and Sing His praises??

    When God convicts us of our sin, it triggers our emotions..

    So what does it matter if upbeat music triggers emotions of Praise and Joy and Thankfulness of what God Has done for us? Would that be wrong? Or just different than what some are used to?

    Many Nations of people use upbeat music when they Sing God's praises.
  10. Edelfäule

    Edelfäule Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree that emotion is a part of and consequence of these actions.

    I think that the lyrics are what would first and foremost trigger such feelings. If that is the case, why tamper with the melody?
  11. jason d

    jason d Puritan Board Freshman

    i love it. and i agree that the lyrics are more important than style (granted you can understand the lyrics, i.e. "Death Metal Worship" :banghead: )

    The best groups out there recovering old hymns to modern music, in my opinion, are:
    Indelible Grace Music
    Matthew Smith
    Red Mountain Music
    Sojourn Music

    My favorite thing about some of these groups is they are re-doing hymns that noone sings or knows about anymore (sometimes)
  12. Hungus

    Hungus Puritan Board Freshman

    As a sometime composer and former active musician let me state while there is no "devil's beat", contrary to what many 1980's parachurch video tapes and films tried to convince us, music even without lyrics can and does invoke emotion and imagery that is universal. Some tunes will cause one to look inwardly, others to forget oneself, some to look to God. I can guarantee you it is possible to take the most reverent Psalm and make it just the opposite by changing the tune it is sung to.
  13. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    Although I have my preference, I don't think we can object to a slightly more up beat song which is doctrinally sound.
  14. Classical Presbyterian

    Classical Presbyterian Puritan Board Junior

    So we should not sing Amazing Grace to the tune from Gilligan's Island?
  15. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior

    My only complaint about the genre of music is that regardless of what it sounds like, it ought to be singable by everyone in the congregation, which generally means it needs to have harmony (parts) or be written with little tonal dynamics. One of the things I find very frustrating with modern arrangements is the presumption that the music is either performed by a high register voice, or that only melodies are sung. I am a very deep bass, and if I am going to sing in worship, it nearly requires that the music be in parts (or written very low for those with high voices).

    The principle is that worship is done by the congregation. Music therefore ought to be chosen such that all the congregation can actually sing it. That excludes things written in unison for the most part.
  16. Mark Hettler

    Mark Hettler Puritan Board Freshman

    In my opinion, which is just my opinion, the music should fit with the lyrics. If the lyrics of a hymn express our joy in the Lord, I think it's perfectly appropriate to set to an upbeat musical arrangement. But if they are meant to express reverence, then it's not appropriate. I think Mark Altrogge does a good job of putting lyrics to music that fits the lyrics. On the other hand, my wife and I visited a church a few years ago that did some kind of calypso arrangement of "How Great Thou Art." That I found difficult to enter into.
  17. Grillsy

    Grillsy Puritan Board Junior

    I'm going to take the minority opinion here and say that the music (besides the lyrics) does matter.
    There are certain rythmns and melodies that are certainly carnal and do stir less than pious desires in some folks.
    That may be a result of culture or it may not be. I am just giving my opinion.
  18. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    You can take any hymn and make it 'upbeat'. David Crowder gets a great sound on "Come Thou Fount". Check out Stuart Townsend's stuff. He is basically a modern day hymn writer. He often doesn't even use a refrain.
  19. Grillsy

    Grillsy Puritan Board Junior

    Perhaps you though have it on another aspect of the issue.
    Have you been to a David Crowder concert or any modern Christian rock concert?

    There is a not a real discernible difference in the look and behavior of those attending a Christian rock concert compared to a secular one.
  20. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    I am not a big Crowder fan. In fact, I am not a big fan of modern worship. I was assuming that Crowder is considered 'upbeat' and his rendition of "Come Thou Fount" is, therefore, 'upbeat'. When people use the word 'upbeat' they usually mean that it involves drums, electric guitars, synthesized keyboards, and simple melodies sung with a breathy tone. If you want 'upbeat' hymns just add drums, guitars, keyboards and sing 'hue' instead of 'you'. Presto! And to round it off, put some real skinny glasses and a goatee on the lead singer.
  21. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    No general opinion.

    In the Trinity Hymnal (OPC,PCA) "Rock of Ages" is in both the traditional tune and a modern (James Ward) re-make.

    I like them both (even though I view them as two totally different hymns). I would not want to lose the historical sense that connects us with former generations of believers in the original tune, but find the re-made tune as moving and God glorifying.

    The Regulative principle "trick" as I'm understanding it (may not have this completely down biblicaly) is that the singer and the instruments, somehow are not to call attention to themselves, but toward God.

    Without that, it's self adulation and entertainment. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but it's not worship of God (maybe of self, talent, personal entertainment, etc.)
  22. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

    Would you expound, please? What rhythms? Which melodies? What are their characteristics?

    I've heard this argument many times before, but without any substance behind it.
  23. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, I would be very interested in hearing the line of argument. I've encountered the position before as well, with little attempt to define "carnality" or "sensuality". One argument was that certain syncopated drum beats are not in sync with the heart beat, and this therefore unnatural, and not appropriate for worship. I'm not sure about this argument, especially considering that the heartbeat is very syncopated.

    This brings me to similar question I've been pondering: If the music (aside from lyrics) succeeds in bringing the worshipper into a heightened state of emotion and excitement, is this a good thing? It's clear that certain music evokes certain emotions; should this be used as an aid to worship, or do only the words matter?

  24. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

    Here's a question: why aren't more theologically sound hymns paired with "upbeat" music? Why is our default mode "dour"? Yes, there are appropriate times for our songs to be slow, contemplative, even mournful . . . but there's also a time to celebrate God's grace with joy in our hearts, and our music (not just our lyrics) should reflect that joy.

  25. Knoxienne

    Knoxienne Puritan Board Graduate

  26. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

    Amazing Grace sung to the tune of House of the Rising Sun, on the other hand, can be really powerful. The Blind Boys of Alabama recorded a rendition like that about 10 years ago and it gives me chills.
  27. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Maybe we should remember that many of the tunes that we associate as being traditional to the hymns were at one time 'modern'. Many of them cause a great stir among Christians and churches as being influenced by the world.
  28. Brian Withnell

    Brian Withnell Puritan Board Junior

    So I take it that "Immortal Invisible" to the tune "Away in a Manger" could also detract from the words.

    Hmmm ... I would think "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" in an upbeat musical style might be a little detracting as well.
  29. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

    This is true. When it comes to music for corporate worship, the music should serve the lyrics, not the other way around.
  30. Tripel

    Tripel Puritan Board Senior

    I love hymns, and usually I prefer the traditional tunes. There are a few cases where the traditional tune doesn't seem to fit, or modern tunes seem to fit better. One that comes to mind is "O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus." I really like the hymn and I love the traditional tune, but I don't like the two together. I think the minor key is beautiful, and it's a lot of fun to sing in parts, but the words are so much more uplifting and joyful than the tune. I haven't heard a modern tune for this one, so I'm still waiting.

    I highly recommend Indelible Grace to those who love hymns. For some hymns they stick with the traditional tune, and for others they go modern. "Come Ye Sinners" is an example where I think Indelible Grace's tune is better fitting than what we sing in our hymnal.
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