A Reply to Mark Snoeberger
Thank you for your interaction with a recent Nick of Time essay on your weblog. My piece was on the necessity of not singing some songs, and your response pointed out the covenantal nature of church membership. I don’t think that there is much real disagreement between us, and I was minded not to spend time on a reply. Evidently, however, your response has attracted a bit of attention around the internet, and I think it might be well to draw attention to the points at which we emphasize things differently.
I should say that I appreciate the concerns you are raising and understand the idea at their center. We live in an age when the covenantal nature of church membership is not taken nearly seriously enough. The last thing that I would want to do is to undermine it any further.
Still, I think that your concerns are unnecessary in this instance. Let me give three reasons why.
First, I think your analogy between eating and singing leads to an equivocation of the term “unhealthy.” In what sense does your wife think that hamburgers are unhealthy? Surely not in the sense that they are poison. Hamburgers are food. If you are starving, they can keep you alive. When she says that they are unhealthy, what she means is that they are not as good for you as some other food might be.
Some hymnody is unhealthy—or less healthy—in exactly this sense. It is not false. It is not overtly demeaning to God. It is simply second-rate (or third, or fourth, or fifth). For example, the better productions of the gospel song era probably fit into this classification. I will sing most of these songs, though I constantly find myself thinking of hymns that could have served the purpose better. read more