In the recent issue of The Artistic Theologian, Jonathan Blackmon provided a helpful discussion of the way God’s character and Word should affect what we sing in the church. He summarizes the article in his introduction:
In this paper I will argue that God’s Word and God’s Presence should directly shape the song of God’s people in at least three specific ways. First, the words and music of corporate worship songs should be biblically based and should therefore reflect God’s truth; they should be Christ-centered and so should reflect God’s goodness;2 and they should be skillfully crafted and performed as an offering in God’s holy presence and should therefore reflect his beauty. Section one of the paper explores the relationship of Scripture and shekinah to Christian worship, section two explains how the truth, goodness, and beauty of God ought to be reflected in congregational song, and section three provides an analysis of three hymns in light of the truths presented in the paper’s first two sections.
One of the most helpful features of the article is Blackmon’s analysis of a few hymns based on the criteria he presents in the article. He concludes this way:
Congregational songs should be evaluated by the truth of God’s Word and by how they will sound as musical offerings from the hearts of worshipers in God’s presence. Congregations at worship need songs that are biblical in content and artistically excellent so that they will have appropriate sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to offer unto God that will, in turn, encourage their joy and progress in the faith. Churches need songs that reflect the truth, goodness, and beauty of God in their content and in the way they are constructed and, thankfully, many such songs exist in a variety of musical styles from traditional to modern. If churches will be faithful to preach and teach the true gospel of Christ and if theologians and musicians will think and work together to realize the implications of the gospel for congregational song, then perhaps God’s people will begin to expect a more healthful musical diet when they come to worship in God’s presence.