Singing Theology… And Can It Be?

–__I started this post last Monday but then Jane was called into the hospital before I could finish. Luke was born at 12:21 am on May 10, 2006.__–
A while ago I was at a missions conference where the speaker made a big deal about the need to sing our theology. Since that time I’ve been paying closer attention to what I sing. I wonder, “Is this really my theology?” Obviously other people have asked the same question.
Yesterday +(May 7)+ at Glen Cairn we sang Charles Wesley’s great hymn _And Can It Be_. While caught up in worship my analytical side kicked in. The words I was singing stuck in my brain. Cognitive dissonance set in. “Those aren’t the words I remember,” I thought. Even though our church switched long ago to using projected lyrics, the hymn books are still in the pews although rarely used. They are very handy for situations like this. I pulled the closest one out and read something different… something more familiar:
bq.. He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
*And bled for Adam’s helpless race:*
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
p. But that wasn’t what we had just read on the screen. We had been prompted to sing:
bq. *And bled for all His chosen race:*
I jotted a note to myself to check it out. I had never found the familiar lyrics theologically incorrect (of course, I’m probably not calvinistic enough for some Calvinists), so wondered what might be said about the change.
Today I went looking. So far I haven’t found much about when or why the change was introduced.
I found the lyrics as penned by Charles Wesley on Cyberhymnal (including verses we didn’t sing in church yesterday and aren’t in our hymn book. “Rebecca Writes” pointed me to a choir rendition at Bible Centre (much nicer than Cyberhymnal’s MIDI file).
In an article on the website of Grace School of Theology and Ministry, the author quotes the revised lyrics as “the immortal words of Wesley.” The article introduced me to another revision that we hadn’t sung, “Humbled Himself (so great His love)” rather than “Emptied Himself of all but love”.
On Think Christian Andy ponders changing hymn lyrics in a post titled “Worm theology” in your hymnbook?. In a comment, Chris points to the Trinity Hymnal as a source and so-called “limited” vs. “unlimited” atonement as the issue.
The Oremus Hymnal (although under reconstruction) lists a large number of hymnals that include _And Can It Be_; however, Trinity is not listed. Searching further I could not find the hymn in an online version (lyrics only) of the original 1961 edition. The list of songs included in the revised 1990 edition has _And Can It Be_… but alas no lyrics are availble to view.
A site promoting the Trinity Hymnal (Baptist Edition) notes these differences from the original Trinity Hymnal:
bq. Hymn #’s 731 & 732 (a slightly edited version of “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” and “I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow (Newton)) have been added.
Perhaps this is the source of the change? If you have any of these hymnbooks can you check the lyrics for me? I left all of mine in Trinidad.
Now yesterday at church we sang…

One Response to “Singing Theology… And Can It Be?” Subscribe

  1. wayne May 17, 2006 at 10:23 pm #

    I never heard that version of Can It Be? before. Interesting.
    The main reason for my comment is to congratulate you and Jane and the kids on the safe birth of Luke!
    Wayne Shih