The Banality of Bad Hymns

The other day, somebody posted the above hymn on the Facebook group “I’m Fed Up With Bad Church Music”.  The posting prompted considerable debate about whether it was, in fact, a bad hymn.  My own initial reaction was, “Wow; that’s bad!”  My second reaction was, “Why am I so sure that this is bad?”

After all, it isn’t bad in the ways that hymns are usually bad.  It has a point.  It doesn’t wander from that point.  It uses consistent rhythm, rhyme, and meter.  Usually, that’s a recipe for a hymn that is at least mediocre.  However, I don’t feel like this one even makes it over the bar of mediocrity.  In fact, the word it brought to mind was “banal”, which the dictionary tells us means, “commonplace, trite”.  It’s simply too inelegant to work well as a hymn.  In particular, I think the problems are: Continue reading


“Before the Throne of God Above” and Calvinism

A day or two ago, my brother Kent Berman asked on the Hymnody group on Facebook whether the second verse of the hymn “Before the Throne of God Above” was Calvinistic.  For those who aren’t familiar with said verse, it goes like this:

When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see Him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free,
for God the just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me.
Continue reading

Those Who Dwell with God Most High (Psalm 91)

Those who dwell with God Most High
In His shadow will abide;
To their Fortress they will cry
And, within His shelter, hide.
He will save you from the snare
Of the death His judgment brings,
Faithful, He will shield you there
In the refuge of His wings.

Through the plagues of night and day,
Do not fear what they will do;
Though ten thousand waste away,
Death will not come near to you.
Sinners then will know disgrace;
You will see their recompense,
Safe in God, your dwelling place,
For the Lord is your defense.

Angels sent by His commands
Come to make your guard complete.
They will bear you in their hands
With your foes beneath your feet.
As with all who know His name,
He will answer you in strife:
Rescuing your soul from shame,
Satisfying you with life.

For Help and Mercy (Psalm 142)

For help and mercy I will cry,
Appealing to the Lord alone;
Before His face I will complain
And pour distress before His throne.

When I am weak, You know my way,
Though others hide a trap for me;
The friends who cared for me have gone,
And no one stands where they should be.

I cry to you for help, O Lord,
My portion in this land of woe;
O give attention to my plea,
For they have brought me very low.

Deliver me from every foe,
And bring me from captivity
That I may magnify Your name
Because of how You dealt with me.