Critical explanation of the theology of worship song?
“In Christ Alone”, is a collaborative work by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. It is song or rather a hymn that was written in the year 2002. According to one of the authors of this song, Stuart Townend, had a unique response of this song from a US soldier who was there at that time in Iraq (Akins 2016). According to the account of that soldier, the promises that were there in the song helped him to survive in the dangerous battlefield in Iraq. The soldier’s account also reveals the fact that he used to sing the prayer every day, and each verse of the song helped him to pray every day. According to the soldier, the following lines gave him comfort during the war:
“What heights of love, what depths of peace,
What fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.”
Critical Explanation of the Theology of Worship Song
Church worship or the culture of church worship is nothing but a private and a very personal engagement of the Man with God, through the Bible. Although, the Bible is at times very rudimentary for some people and therefore, for such people the primary source of theology is the worship song or the hymn. The worship songs and the hymns also help Man to have a connection with God (Boethius et al. 2014).
During the time of early church and even today, the prayer or the worship songs used to reflect believes of Christianity. A closer look at the text of these songs will express the theology of these songs, which are more about the glorification of the incarnate figure of Christ, the hope of returning from death or rather the hope for resurrection and the hope of Christ being the King of all the Kings (Welker 2015).
“There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine-
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.”
According to certain critics, the hymns or the worship songs are sang in adoration, which is dramatic in nature, only to accept the supremacy of God. On other hand, there are critics and scholars, who believe that the worship songs or rather the hymns are sung because Christ himself as well as his followers used to sing these songs (D.M.A 2016). According to these scholars, if people read the scriptures of Matthew then they will find the reference of Christ and his followers singing songs (Matthew 26:30). Apart from that, scholars also believe that song and singing was a part of the Israelite tradition and this reference is found in the Book 1 of Chronicles of the Bible, in Chapter 6, line 31 and 32, and in Chapter 16 line 42. Even in Exodus, there is the reference of the Israelites, who at the time of escaping from the Egyptians crossed the Red Sea and sang a song for the Lord (Exod 15). In the book of Colossians, the readers could find Apostle Paul, which state that:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:16-17).
Time has changed a lot and along with time things too have changed a lot, now today there is technology, and there are CDs, there is mass media, which includes television and radio and there are many more things, which could pose a challenge to music ministry. Even the background music of the video games could be a challenge for the music ministry. Therefore, hymns have gone through many modifications in the contemporary world and have reached the audience. The Christian artists have made the effort to make the worship song popular among the masses, although the critics and scholars are of the opinion that there are many worship songs, which has not been filtered by the theological review. Therefore, they believe that this is done so that the artists could avoid the theological standards that are there (Carbine and Koster 2015). Therefore, the critics believe that trying to analyze the contemporary lyrics of the hymns will be like trying to hit a moving ball that is always in motion. On the other hand, there are certain critics who believe that there has always been a birth of a new hymn, with new style and with new thoughts and therefore, the analysis of theology has never been easy because the creative progress of the hymns were always dynamic in nature (McKinney 2015).
The lyrics or rather the content of the hymn is very important and the lyricist should not only be poetic while writing the lyrics but rather should go deep into the scriptures and should explore the truth about God. It is something that Stuart Townend, the composer of the “In Christ Alone” believes. The sermons previously used to play a very important role in the life of Christians and with the change of time and many other factors, today the hymns are as important as the sermons (Edsall 2015). Therefore, if the worship songs are written properly and with deep understanding of the scriptures then the people will keep in mind the worship song the same way that they keep in mind the sermons.
The critics favor “In Christ Alone”, among all the systematic hymns that are there because it has deep understanding of the scriptures. The worship song centers on the cross and the Christ and presents the story of redemption using the rich imagery that is there.
“No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand:
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power if Christ I’ll stand.”
Apart from following the scriptures thoroughly the worship song also follows the Trinity structure as well, according to the scholars and the critics. Every verse starts with the member of the Trinity and along with it; there are statements of worship as well as adoration and the verse ends with a doxology. Although, in this particular poem or in these kinds of hymns and worship songs, one could rarely find the themes of evangelism and eschatology and these themes are not common in these kinds of texts. There is also the use of the English personal pronouns in these kinds of texts, which blurred the understanding of the listeners, and they do not know who should be responsible for an action.
Akins, D. (2016). Song Story: "In Christ Alone". [online] Crosswalk.com. Available at: https://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/song-story-in-christ-alone-1275127.html [Accessed 29 Jan. 2016].
Boethius, Rand, E., Stewart, H., Tester, S. and Boethius, (2014). Theological tractates. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Carbine, R. and Koster, H. (2015). The gift of theology. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
D.M.A, E. (2016). Theological Themes in Contemporary Hymnody. [online] Available at: https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/jbtm/07-2_082.pdf [Accessed 29 Jan. 2016].
Edsall, B. (2015). Literature or Liturgy? Early Christian Hymns and Prayers in their Literary and Liturgical Context in Antiquity. Edited by CLEMENS LEONHARD and HERMUT LOHR. The Journal of Theological Studies, 66(1), pp.430-432.
McKinney, C. (2015). A Hermeneutic of Pause(ing): A Considered Responding to Other as "Not-I".Feminist Theology, 23(3), pp.292-303.
Reid, G. (2016). Toward an Adventist Theology of Worship. 1st ed.
Welker, M. (2015). What makes theology theology?. Theology Today, 72(2), pp.160-169.