What will the next hymnal revision bring?

Jon S - https://www.flickr.com/photos/62693815@N03/6276688407

A major Protestant denomination is in the middle of revising their hymnal. What will this hymnal change bring?

A Chicago blogger is in favor of changing John Newton’s Amazing Grace.

I love to hear “Amazing Grace,” the tune…..I’m good right up until the line about “…a wretch like me,” …..If this sounds insufficiently humble, it’s the best I can do. People like me who don’t self-identify as “wretches,” have suggested alternate lyrics. These revisionists prefer to replace “a wretch like me,” with “saved and set me free” or “saved a soul like me,” or “saved and strengthened me.” A couple of these options lack the cadence of the original, but they solve the “wretch” problem.


Unfortunately for the blogger, Jesus warns the Laodiceans:

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

Revelation 3:17

Other bloggers note Isaac Watts’ Alas! And did my Savior Bleed is also being modified:

Later versions have changed the objectionable lyrics “for such a worm as I” to “for sinners such as I?” Because nobody in this day and age of promoting self esteem and positive self images really gets off on being called a worm.


This is My Father’s World is also being revised in some hymnals.

Recently I attended a worship service using a new, recently published hymnal. One of the hymns was “This Is My Father’s Word.” I love that hymn! In fact, I’ve often used it with classes to illustrate a theological view of God’s sovereignty and present evil. My favorite lines are in verse three: “This is my Father’s world, the battle is not done. Jesus who died shall be satisfied and earth and heav’n be one.” That stands in some apparent tension with an earlier line in the hymn that says “And though the wrong seem oft’ so strong, God is the ruler yet.” However, I argue, one can and should believe both! The hymn has it exactly right. God is the ruler now, but we live in the “already but not yet” situation where the battle with evil continues until the eschaton. God is our ruler but the territory in which we live is still party enemy occupied territory.The new version of the hymn contains the lyrics (to replace “the battle is not done…”) “This is my Father’s world, why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King! Let heaven ring! God reigns! Let earth be glad.”


Sadly Biblical illiteracy is plaguing many. A hymn that some want to “put to rest” is “Bringing in the Sheaves” until the Biblical context is found.

What are sheaves? And why should we bring them in?… To this classic hymn’s defense, I did a little digging and found this beautiful passage in Psalm 126 that may explain the meaning of “sheaves” a bit better:


One denomination is accusing Adelaide Pollard of an ethnic slur, even though ten times in the Bible we see the exact same phrase!

Some texts may be understood as ethnic slurs, whether they were intended as such by the author or not. Consider “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” (no. 382), which was changed from “Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now” to “Wash me just now, Lord, wash me just now,”

Another blogger notes fewer songs are sung or written about the blood – even though Revelation 1:5 reminds us that we are washed in the blood!

Songs like “Power in the Blood” or “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” or “Are You Washed in the Blood?” are still sung in some places, but fewer and fewer, and there aren’t many newer songs or praise choruses so focused on blood. The Cross, yes; redemption, yes; but blood, rarely. We’re eager to speak of life, but hesitant to speak of blood.


Christianity Today goes to the CCLI statistics to back up the observation:

Only 8 of the top 100 songs licensed by Christian Copyright Licensing International (which covers almost all modern worship sung in churches) even mentionJesus’ blood. And none of the top 100 focuses on it.


A contemporary song was dropped from a recent hymnal because the authors wouldn’t consent to the line “on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied” to “the love of God was magnified.”

A compromise was reached thirty years ago on the hymn O For a Thousand Tongues, with one hymnal putting an asterisk before a verse because of its references to the disabled.

Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb, 
your loosened tongues employ; 
ye blind, behold your savior come, 
and leap, ye lame, for joy. 


Yet Jesus Himself said:

The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

Matthew 11:5

Even Charles Dicken’s character Tiny Tim recognized this, as his father Bob Cratchett recounted:

He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.

A Christmas Carol

86 years ago, a change in hymnals resulted in the formation of a new denomination.

The shed blood of Jesus Christ for sinners was at the center of the majority of the hymns removed, stanzas omitted, and lines changed. [J. Gresham] Machen concluded, “Many are the places in this new book where mention of the cross of Christ, in its true Christian meaning, is removed.” While old hymns were excluded or amended for theological reasons, the new hymns were characterized by a deadly vagueness


While trends will come and go, let us remember that God’s Word is eternal – may our praises reflect the revelation in His Word!

For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.

Psalm 119:89

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