This week I’m writing about “Things IFB pastors could learn from the Calvinists.” I’m not a calvinist. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. While I don’t think hard core calvinism is Biblical or healthy, I think that calvinists have a lot to teach us.
In my opinion, a lot of the young guys who are going “calvi” probably wouldn’t if we’d learn these things.
When I was going off to Bible college, my Pastor gave me a pretty neat gift, a hymn book that was written and published in the early 1800s. I determined not to just make it a keepsake, but to read it. When I read it, I was astounded at the biblical and doctrinal content of the hymns.
At that time, when I thought of “the good old hymns” I thought of songs like “Victory in Jesus” or John W. Peterson songs, or the songs made popular by Fanny Crosby or D.L. Moody’s lieutenants. While none of these songs are outright bad, they pale in comparison to the songs written in the centuries before. Songs like “Be Still My Soul”, or “And Can It Be.” Songs that are rich in doctrinal content.
Today we have hymn writers, mostly calvinists, writing meaningful hymns like “How Deep the Fathers Love to Us”, “In Christ Alone” and “My Jesus Fair” and retuning older songs like “Before the Throne of God Above.” Mainly because of the calvinists, we are seeing a resurgence in truly old fashioned hymns.
One of the reasons that a resurgence in calvinism has resulted in a resurgence of doctrinal hymns is because calvinists emphasize doctrine instead of running from it. Another is they have a tendency to be more in touch with their heritage. Whatever the reasons, hymns are improving for it.
There is a bubble gum and candy flavor to many of the hymns sung in Independent Baptist churches. We criticize the Praise and Worship community for their 7–11 songs, (singing seven words eleven times) but many of the songs we consider “great old hymns” are 1) not very old and 2) about as deep as the divot on a golf ball. (Let’s be honest, “Love Lifted Me” is not exactly “strong meat.”)
When our young people compare our hymnody with those of the resurgent calvinists, which do you think they are going to find more meaningful?
We need to go back to singing songs that are rich in doctrinal content. There are some parts of the calvinist resurgence I can’t stomach (mainly the calvinism part) but I think a return to doctrinal hymns is a very, very positive thing. If we don’t jump on the bandwagon, then, the way things are going, we are going to end up in the awkward position of having significantly shallower hymns than the CCM crowd.