Wednesday 7 February 2024

The true reason traditional hymns were modernised

I uphold Exclusive Psalmody - the practice of singing only the biblical Psalms during personal and congregational worship. Therefore, I do not participate when uninspired songs are sung during worship services.

However, I am not completely against the singing of uninspired songs. They can be sung during Sunday School or during other occasions. They are only not to be sung during worship. My position is consistent with the Regulative Principle of Worship.

I have noticed a trend in modern Evangelical churches across England where the modernised versions of traditional uninspired songs (commonly called hymns) are increasingly being sung. The editors of new hymn books such as Praise! actively modernised traditional hymns by removing all second person singular pronouns (thou, thee, thy, thine), often claiming that they are making the hymns more suitable for modern English speakers. My observation is that in reality, the whole modernisation project is actually driven by some modern Evangelicals’ extreme antipathy towards the use of the old English second person singular pronouns.

Why is this extreme antipathy? Well the old English second person singular pronouns are the main representatives of the English of the Authorised Version (KJV). Their use in hymns reminds the singer of the KJV. Therefore, the extreme antipathy mentioned earlier in reality, originated from the extreme antipathy towards the KJV - the most accurate and a faithful translation of the Word of God in the English language. 

You can read my article Bethel: Is the old English of KJV too difficult for modern readers? ( to understand the reason for the extreme antipathy towards the KJV shown by some modern Evangelicals.

In my view, the so-called ‘modernisation of traditional hymns’ is effectively vandalism. The well known hymn normally sung on Easter Sunday ‘Thine be the Glory’ has been changed to ‘Glory to Jesus’, and clearly the meaning has been changed.

In conclusion, I absolutely reject the vandalism (modernisation) of traditional hymns. I also reject hymn books such as Praise! that actively vandalise (modernise) traditional hymns.

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