Posted by Dr. Jeff Hutchinson
Church historian Mark Noll writes in his recent article for Christianity Today, “Praise the Lord” (found at http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2007/006/9.14.html):
An old German proverb runs: “Wer spricht mit mir ist mein Mitmensch; wer singt mit mir ist mein Bruder” (the one who speaks with me is my fellow human; the one who sings with me is my brother)….Believers who together sang the same hymns in the same way came to experience very strong ties with each other and even stronger rooting in Christianity….(But) as much as hymn singing has always been one of the most effective builders of Christian community, it has also always been one of the strongest dividers of Christian communities.
The one who sings with me is my brother. Now, this is just a German proverb (not to be confused with the divinely inspired sort), but it does speak to a deep truth. The one who is troubled by the hymns that sing of the gospel is, well, troubled.
One of Bob’s recent posts here at Green Bagginses reminded me of these unfortunate words from the Anglican scholar N. T. Wright, part of his lecture at the August 2003 Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference. Wright says that Paul “looks ahead to the coming day of judgment and sees God’s favourable verdict not on the basis of the merits and death of Christ, not because like Lord Hailsham he simply casts himself on the mercy of the judge, but on the basis of his apostolic work. ‘What is our hope and joy and crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus Christ as his royal appearing? Is it not you? For you are our glory and our joy.’ (1 Thess. 3.19f [sic]; cp. Phil. 2.15f) I suspect that if you or I were to say such a thing, we could expect a quick rebuke of ‘nothing in my hand I bring; simply to thy cross I cling.’ “
Well, I’m not sure that if N. T. Wright were to “say such a thing” in conversation with me that I would bring a “quick rebuke,” but I might see if he’d let me encourage him in the gospel. Then maybe he would want to sing “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling” with me, in praise and thanksgiving to the Triune God. My great-grandfather (the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the 1920’s) would be thrilled to see such brotherly unity across the Anglican-Presbyterian divide.
Posted by Jeff Hutchinson