A good hymn directs those who hear or sing it to more God-centered thoughts and behavior, regardless of their knowledge of its author. Knowing the background of a particular song or songwriter, however, can be beneficial in its own right. "It is Well With My Soul" is generally beloved, but when you know that the author had just lost his four daughters in a shipwreck when he wrote it, its impact becomes even deeper and more powerful.
Hymns are one of the best ways to teach and learn theology and doctrine. Songs are often remembered whether we want to remember them or not, and when truths about God and His character are put to music, we remember them much better than if we simply tried to memorize sentences out of a book or bullet points in a list....which is another reason knowing who wrote them and why can be important.
You wouldn't want just anyone writing a Church creed or denominational confession. Why do we often ignore the authors of the songs we sing on Sunday (and hum through the rest of the week)? The books we offer here ensure you don't have to anymore, covering both many of the world's favorite hymn-writers and their works, as well as many few have heard of.
What about modern songs and choruses? you might ask. While many of them are doctrinally acceptable and worshipful in nature, few have achieved the "classic" status of the older songs and hymns. We aren't wholly against such music (unless it's theologically wrong or irreverent!), but the traditional songs are proven while many choruses are still in a state of flux. Also, too many of them are just pop songs with a vaguely Christian message, and lack the richness of more thoughtful compositions.
Singing has always been one of the favorite activities of Christians. We want to promote that, but we also want to encourage those who sing to do so with an understanding both of the music and lyrics they love. In this century, we often hear "I like the music; I don't listen to the words." Christians worship the Word of God, Jesus Christ, and can't afford that attitude. These books will help you love the songs you already sing more deeply and truly, and to praise the God to whom they're offered even more vigorously than you do now.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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