Easter Music, Contemporary v. Traditional: A Test

Christ is risen, alleluia.

In response to songs I have heard for Easter, I want to propose a test for a hymn’s musical quality, a test with a theological basis. The theological basis is this: just as the offering of incense and the sacrifice of animals belong to the Old Testament – even though today we may still sweeten a church with incense and eat lamb with thanksgiving this Easter – so too only the singing, and not the playing of instruments, is properly the New Testament worship of the Lord. The test, then, is to strip away the pyrotechnics and try singing the hymn on the quality of the melody alone. Let’s use two songs I heard today: one of them a ‘contemporary worship song’, the other a classic hymn for Easter Day.

This Easter song may sound catchy, but try singing it a cappella and see how it is with the instruments stripped away:

I think you’ll find that it falls flat, and you won’t want to be heard singing it without the instruments whose proper place in worship is to accompany the singing.

In contrast, the classic Easter hymn ‘Jesus Christ Is Risen Today’, though certainly grand with the right instrumentation, works well even if you sing it alone in a country field, and it’s the kind of earworm you might find yourself whistling on the way home from church.

Christ is risen, alleluia.

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