Tag Archives: LSB

W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – Trinity 9: “What Is The World To Me”

The chief hymn for Trinity 9 is “What Is the World to Me,” by Georg Michael Pfefferkorn, who, incidentally, is my favorite deceased musician named George Michael. Granted, he had the advantage of not being a degenerate. Also, talent.

This week’s post will be shorter. There just isn’t as much to say. Going forward, I will at least post the parallel versions and the scan from TLH way out ahead of time for convenience’s sake if people want to print it out and use it. Then, if I have commentary and time to add it, I will go back and do so and then update the post.

Here are the TLH and LSB versions of this week’s hymn in parallel:

TLH 430

LSB 730

1. What is the world to me
With all its vaunted pleasure
When Thou, and Thou alone,
Lord Jesus, art my Treasure!
Thou only, dearest Lord,
My soul’s Delight shalt be;
Thou art my Peace, my Rest–
What is the world to me!
1. What is the world to me
With all its vaunted pleasure
When You, and You alone,
Lord Jesus, are my Treasure!
You only, dearest Lord,
My soul’s delight shalt be;
You are my peace, my rest.
What is the world to me!
2. The world is like a cloud
And like a vapor fleeting,
A shadow that declines,
Swift to its end retreating.
My Jesus doth abide,
Tho’ all things fade and flee;
My everlasting Rock–
What is the world to me!
3. The world seeks to be praised
And honored by the mighty,
Yet never once reflects
That they are frail and flighty.
But what I truly prize
Above all things is He,
My Jesus, He alone–
What is the world to me!
2. The world seeks to be praised
And honored by the mighty
Yet never once reflects
That they are frail and flighty.
But what I truly prize
Above all things is He,
My Jesus, He alone.
What is the world to me!
4 The world seeks after wealth
And all that Mammon offers,
Yet never is content
Tho’ gold should fill its coffers.
I have a higher good,
Content with it I’ll be:
My Jesus is my Wealth–
What is the world to me!
3. The world seeks after wealth
And all that mammon offers,
Yet never is content
Though gold should fill its coffers.
I have a higher good,
Content with it I’ll be:
My Jesus is my wealth.
What is the world to me!
5. The world is sorely grieved
Whenever it is slighted
Or when its hollow fame
And honor have been blighted.
Christ, Thy reproach I bear
Long as it pleaseth Thee;
I’m honored by my Lord–
What is the world to me!
6. The world with wanton pride
Exalts its sinful pleasures
And for them foolishly
Gives up the heavenly treasures.
Let others love the world
With all its vanity;
I love the Lord, my God–
What is the world to me!
7. The world abideth not;
Lo, like a flash ’twill vanish;
With all its gorgeous pomp
Pale death it cannot banish;
Its riches pass away,
And all its joys must flee;
But Jesus doth abide–
What is the world to me!
8. What is the world to me!
My Jesus is my Treasure,
My Life, my Health, my Wealth,
My Friend, my Love, my Pleasure,
My Joy, my Crown, my All,
My Bliss eternally.
Once more, then, I declare:
What is the world to me!
4. What is the world to me!
My Jesus is my treasure,
My life, my health, my wealth,
My friend, my love, my pleasure,
My joy, my crown, my all,
My bliss eternally.
Once more, then, I declare:
What is the world to me!

Obviously you have only half the number of verses in LSB as you get in TLH. That’s sad, if you ask me. Thankfully, the verses that you do get are relatively unmaimed, but the language has been modernized because, again, you just can’t understand Jacobean (or Elizabethan, etc.) English unless you’re praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Personally, I’d rather have the extra page or half-page with the four deleted verses of this wonderful hymn than any modern hymn whose printing required the same amount of ink. I mean, I would have been glad to see some of the Methodist hymns from TLH get the axe so that previously absent Lutheran chorales could be included. Yet if LSB isn’t as thick with Methodist hymns as TLH, it is far thicker with bad hymns in general—hymns that I won’t ever review in this column because, one, they’re never appointed as the chief hymn (mercy), and two, they’re just so bad.

Anyway, as you look at this week’s hymn (below), just remember that instead of four extra verses of wonderful, comforting doctrine, you got a two-page spread of schlock about high school chemistry class, construction work, and the pep band at a football game.

(Note: I haven’t cropped the second page of this hymn. The hymn that follows it in TLH, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” is beautiful. Sadly, the version of this hymn in LSB is set to another melody, which, for all of its merits (I personally find it kind of Schwaermerisch), was not written by Michael Praetorius. Abandoning a melody by Praetorius is pretty much always a downgrade.)

W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – Trinity 8: “In God, My Faithful God”

I think this will be the featured image for all of these posts from now on. It’s the perfect visual representation of the damage which is being done to our heritage.

I should probably start out with a big “thank you” to the Calvinists who put together hymnary.org. Their felicitously inconsistent website has been an invaluable resource for me as I’ve been working on this project. Here is the index for TLH, and here is the index for LSB. It won’t surprise you to learn that more of TLH is available in facsimile scans, as it is a much older book. By the same token, many more actual TLHs are available for free or cheap. Many churches still have them squirreled away somewhere in one of their labyrinthine closets. Get a torch and go exploring. You just might find them.

A friend writes regarding the last installment:

I think that if you are going to continue this series, which you should, this will be a great convincing piece for people. It’s not the first, but it’s early in the series. And that’s great. But it’s sort of the thesis statement. It’s not anti-“guys who made the LSB,” but it also sort of is. It says, “Let’s judge the hymnal result, not the individuals on the hymnal committee.”

I don’t know if anyone found last week’s entry convincing or not, but I guess it was a bit of a thesis-statement, as my friend put it. To avoid repeating myself, I will take advantage of this. For example, when the LSB needlessly modernizes the language of a hymn, I’ll just say, “needless modernization – see post for Trinity 7,” or something like that.

Another friend writes:

LSB was kind of damage-control or patch-up of LW. And, yes, it is ultimately reflective of Kieschnick’s administration, though better than he would have liked. Jerry should take the blame for all the bad, and no credit for the good. But in the aftermath, the “confessionals” support it for the sake of unity.

That’s also true. Too often this line gets trotted out as a last ditch: “it’s not our fault, the confessional agenda was hamstrung by Kieschnick’s boys.” I’m not sure I buy that, at least not entirely. The “confessional agenda” was not and is not monolithic. In every project like this, there is a middle faction. They’re the ones who end up saying that while they might have wanted a horse at the outset, a camel is ultimately much better. Whatever they are, they are not traditionalists.

The chief hymn for Trinity 8 is “In God, My Faithful God,” by Sigismund Weingärtner. Very little is known about old Siggy the Wine-Gardener, other than that he wrote a wonderful hymn.

Here’s are the TLH and LSB versions in parallel:

TLH 526

LSB 745

1. In God, my faithful God,
I trust when dark my road;
Tho’ many woes o’ertake me,
Yet He will not forsake me.
His love it is doth send them
And, when ’tis best, will end them.
1. In God, my faithful God,
I trust when dark my road;
Great woes may overtake me,
Yet He will not forsake me.
My troubles He can alter;
His hand lets nothing falter.
2. My sins assail me sore,
But I despair no more.
I build on Christ who loves me;
From this rock nothing moves me.
To Him I all surrender,
To Him, my soul’s defender.
2. My sins fill me with care,
Yet I will not despair.
I build on Christ, who loves me;
From this rock nothing moves me.
To Him I will surrender,
To Him, my soul’s defender.
3. If death my portion be,
Then death is gain to me
And Christ my life forever,
From whom death cannot sever.
Come when it may, He’ll shield me,
To Him I wholly yield me.
3. If death my portion be,
It brings great gain to me;
It speeds my life’s endeavor
To live with Christ forever.
He gives me joy in sorrow,
Come death now or tomorrow.
4. O Jesus Christ, my Lord,
So meek in deed and word,
Thou once didst die to save us
Because Thy love would have us
Be heirs of heavenly gladness
When ends this life of sadness.
4. O Jesus Christ, my Lord,
So meek in deed and word,
You suffered death to save us
Because Your love would have us
Be heirs of heav’nly gladness
When ends this life of sadness.
5. “So be it,” then I say
With all my heart each day.
We, too, dear Lord, adore Thee;
We sing for joy before Thee.
Guide us while here we wander
Until we praise Thee yonder.
5. “So be it,” then, I say
With all my heart each day.
Dear Lord, we all adore You,
We sing for joy before You.
Guide us while here we wander
Until we praise You yonder.

Verses 2, 4, and 5 in the LSB have all been minorly but needlessly tweaked. These are”just because” changes. People who introduce “just because” changes in hymnody and liturgy should not be trusted. Whatever their intentions may be, they are presumptuous and solipsistic, and they do not know the worth of the things they handle. Remember that, because it’s true.

Verse 3’s mutations are equally needless, but quite a bit more significant. The last line in TLH’s version, “To Him I wholly yield me,” is probably the culprit. It suggests that you, as a Christian, actually do something as a baptized child of God. That’s “Law-talk,” and it has to go. People submitting their wills to God’s? That, like, has no place in my neo-Lutheran Christian life, man. I don’t have any reason or strength. I, like, just can’t even, so stop harshing my mellow.

I don’t know if such debased understanding is the cause or the effect of our neutered hymn poetics, but it’s everywhere in the Lutheran Church. Aside from the stoner slang which maybe no one uses anymore, the above is not a caricature.

I’m no scholar, but I have read the Book of Concord a few times. (It’s a good book, and all good books should be read more than once.) There are some pretty clear references in the Book of Concord to Christians striving and actively struggling in their lives under the cross. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 15, “Of Human Traditions in the Church,” paragraphs 45-46, says this:

And of the mortification of the flesh and discipline of the body we thus teach, just as the Confession states, that a true and not a feigned mortification occurs through the cross and afflictions by which God exercises us. In these we must obey God’s will, as Paul says, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). And these are the spiritual exercises of fear and faith. But in addition to this mortification which occurs through the cross, there is also a voluntary kind of exercise necessary, of which Christ says: “Take heed to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting” (Luke 21:34). And Paul: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Cor. 9:27), etc.

The version of verse 3 that you find in TLH fits right in with this. LSB’s, not so much. It’s covered with the fingerprints of people who just couldn’t leave a good thing be.

The real travesty in LSB’s version of this hymn, though, is verse 1. Not only has this verse been beaten with the ugly stick, it has also been doctrinally eviscerated. The last two lines of verse 1 in TLH give the Christian words to sing in the midst of affliction, reminding him that God has allowed him to be afflicted so that his faith would be strengthened:

His love it is doth send them [i.e., woes]
And, when ’tis best, will end them.

It is God’s love which sends us woes, grief, and calamity. What a comfort to know that even if God does not alter our suffering or take it away, that doesn’t mean that He has abandoned us—no, but opposite is true: when God’s hand is most heavy upon us, that is because He loves us. That is Him chastening our hearts and conforming us to the likeness of His Son. It brings to mind 1 Peter 4:12-13: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

LSB’s version offers cold comfort by comparison. Instead of singing the hard but reassuring truth attested by the TLH version, we give voice to some anemic Reader’s Digest sentiment about the possibility that God might relent and alter our woes:

My troubles He can alter;
His hand lets nothing falter.

What, will God alter my troubles if I “have enough faith”? This is terrible. It introduces uncertainty. Instead of helping us to see that our sufferings themselves are the loving work of God, LSB’s version of verse 1 directs us to the possibility that God might alter our troubles, and sort of reminds you that you’ll “get through it.” So much for the theology of the cross—and I mean the actual theology of the cross, not just antinomians talking about how hard their lives are as a result of their sexy debauchery.

There’s no cosmic law that prohibits a LCMS church from putting TLH back into use; in fact, I know of several LCMS congregations which have done this—I know of others who have never adopted LSB to begin with. TLH is far from perfect, but it is far better than LSB. And you can go back to it. This realization, once it dawns on you, is very liberating, and not in the Tchividjian way.

LSB would be useful as a hymnal supplement. It has some Lutheran chorales and old Latin office hymns that were not included in TLH, and, I admit, this is valuable. But it’s inferior as a service book and inferior as a hymnal. And it’s pretty expensive as a hymnal supplement. I don’t know if it’s possible for a congregation just to get a digital version of LSB that allows them to print inserts, but that sounds like it might be the best option. So, here’s my advice:

  1. If you have LSBs, sell them.
  2. Buy the digital version of LSB so you can print off good hymns and make your own hymnal supplements/put them in your bulletin from time to time as inserts.
  3. Unpack the boxes of TLHs that are in your church closet, dust them off, and put them back in the pews. If you’ve already gotten rid of them, buy some new ones for cheap at the next CPH warehouse sale, or get some old ones from another LCMS church that is never going to use them.

As Dr. Anthony Esolen likes to say: begin. (Interesting fact: Esolen, a papist, was recently knighted by Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Wayne, Indiana. I wonder how Martin Luther would feel about this.)

Here’s TLH’s version of this wonderful hymn. I’ve stitched it together into one page for your convenience, and I’m posting this entry a week late, for your inconvenience.

W(h)ither the Great Lutheran Hymns? – Trinity 6: “All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall”

Before I get started on this week’s hymn, I need to give some explanations for a few things.

Someone was offended by my use of the word “rape” in my article yesterday. “Crude rape language doesn’t strengthen any argument,” this guy writes. Now, I am not an admin on the Facebook page, but someone who is handled this guy pretty well, pointing out that I used the word “rape” figuratively and sharing a link to Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock.” I don’t think this settled anything for this guy, though. Anyway, to clear the record on my own behalf, I just want to assure him and anyone else who may have been wondering that I was not actually accusing the LSB hymnal committee of engaging in forcible coitus with Lutheran hymns. (I also didn’t think that I was “strengthening my argument” by using the word “rape.”) I didn’t think I’d have to issue such a disclaimer, but there ya go. Also, if only because I came up with an extremely funny pun (please clap) for the series title, there will be no further triggering. Well, that’s probably not true, but at least the title won’t be the thing that gets you going, unless you hate puns.

Regarding yesterday’s post, a friend writes:

That particular variant in ‘Come Follow Me’ traces its origins to LBW. It’s actually quite interesting, because the text was altered significantly from TLH in LBW/LW, but the LSB committee returned to TLH in all but the last phrase. Same thing with ‘Lord Jesus Christ, With Us Abide.’ It was almost unrecognizable in LW, but it was somewhat restored in LSB, though still with fatal issues. Check out stanza five of LSB 585 (‘Lord Jesus Christ, With Us Abide’), and compare to TLH 292 stanza 6. Unbelievable. It has literally the opposite meaning. The original is a prayer against heresy/modernism/new theology, and the LSB/LW one is a plea that the fuddy-duddies and their tradition wouldn’t get in the way of the Holy Ghost. Anyway, I think it would be good to acknowledge the role that LW/LBW played in all of this, because it seems even more damning when you see the original modernist product and realize that it’s the source of this sewage. Otherwise, some people with a bit of knowledge will just blame the translation issues on LW and excuse the editors of LSB. Until you see that they did edit the modernist revisions, and retained far too many of them.

All of that is 100% true. “I think it would be good to acknowledge the role that LW/LBW played in all of this, because it seems even more damning when you see the original modernist product and realize that it’s the source of this sewage.” — Acknowledged!

And “Lord Jesus Christ With Us Abide” is totally the flagship example. It’s appointed for Easter evening or Easter Monday, but it’s also a great hymn all the time, especially at Vespers, so we will do a sneak peak of the two verses mentioned:

TLH 292 LSB 585
6. The haughty spirits, Lord, restrain
Who o’er Thy Church with might would reign
And always set forth something new,
Devised to change Thy doctrine true.
5. Restrain, O Lord, the human pride
That seeks to thrust Your truth aside
Or with some man-made thoughts or things
Would dim the words Your Spirit sings.

This is your synod on homosexuality.

You know what this … molested version is fit for? Clown mass. Episcopalian clown mass presided over by flamers—but I repeat myself. That’s it. This is state-of-confession stuff. If you have any love for the Lutheran Church, you cannot sing the LSB version.

LSB is a synthesis of a good hymnal (TLH) and some abominable hymnals (LBW/LW). This is like a synthesis of a barrel of fine wine and a teaspoon of raw sewage, which yields a barrel of what? Sewage. Why did they do this? Because everything has to be a compromise. Everyone gets their interests represented, even if their interests are heterodox, effeminate, and contrary to all sanity, because the LCMS is a “big tent.”

Great. Now I need a breakfast beer. I did not plan on that when I woke up, but writing this stuff has put me in a mood. Cheers.

The chief hymn for Trinity 6 is “All Mankind Fell In Adam’s Fall,” written by Lazarus Spengler in 1524. It has the distinction of being the only hymn quoted in the Book of Concord. In the Formula of Concord, which was intended to settle certain intra-Lutheran controversies, we read this:

23] 7. They are rebuked and rejected likewise who teach that the nature has indeed been greatly weakened and corrupted through the Fall, but that nevertheless it has not entirely lost all good with respect to divine, spiritual things, and that what is sung in our churches, “Through Adam’s fall is all corrupt, Nature and essence human,” is not true, but from natural birth it still has something good, small, little and inconsiderable though it be, namely, capacity, skill, aptness or ability to begin, to effect, or to help effect something in spiritual things. 24] For concerning external, temporal, worldly things and transactions, which are subject to reason, there will be an explanation in the succeeding article. (FC SD I, 23-24)

The words in bold are a translation of the first few lines of verse 1 of the hymn: “Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt menschlich Natur und Wesen.” To read about the controversy, which was called the Flacian Controversy, click here.

Here are the TLH and LSB versions of the hymn in parallel:

TLH 369 LSB 562
1. All mankind fell in Adam’s fall,
One common sin infects them all;
From sire to son the bane descends,
And over all the curse impends.
1. All mankind fell in Adam’s fall,
One common sin infects us all;
From one to all the curse descends,
And over all God’s wrath impends.
2. Thro’ all man’s pow’rs corruption creeps
And him in dreadful bondage keeps;
In guilt he draws his infant breath
And reaps its fruits of woe and death.
2. Through all our pow’rs corruption creeps
And us in dreadful bondage keeps;
In guilt we draw our infant breath
And reap its fruits of woe and death.
3. From hearts depraved, to evil prone,
Flow tho’ts and deeds of sin alone;
God’s image lost, the darkened soul
Nor seeks nor finds its heav’nly goal.
3. From hearts depraved, to evil prone,
Flow thoughts and deeds of sin alone;
God’s image lost, the darkened soul
Seeks not nor finds its heav’nly goal.
4. But Christ, the second Adam, came
To bear our sin and woe and shame,
To be our Life, our Light, our Way,
Our only Hope, our only Stay.
4. But Christ, the second Adam, came
To bear our sin and woe and shame,
To be our life, our light, our way,
Our only hope, our only stay.
5. As by one man all mankind fell
And, born in sin, was doomed to hell,
So by one Man, who took our place,
We all received the gift of grace.
5. As by one man all mankind fell
And, born in sin, was doomed to hell,
So by one Man, who took our place,
We all were justified by grace.
6. We thank Thee, Christ; new life is ours,
New light, new hope, new strength, new powers:
This grace our every way attend
Until we reach our journey’s end!
6. We thank You, Christ; new life is ours,
New light, new hope, new strength, new pow’rs:
This grace our ev’ry way attend
Until we reach our journey’s end.

As with pretty much all German Lutheran chorales, the version we sing in English is not a straight-across translation but a paraphrases and adaptation. A literal translation of the original German of verse 1 reads as follows:

By Adam’s fall, human nature and being is corrupted;
Which same poison has been passed down to us,
With the result that we could not be saved without the consolation of God,
Who has redeemed us from the tremendous damage,
Wherein the Serpent compelled Eve to invite upon her the wrath of God.

I can’t really imagine singing that, can you? Obviously there’s some adaptation involved, sometimes borrowing of material from other verses, or even distributing material from other verses entirely so that the result is often very different. I don’t want to get too bogged down talking about translation, as I am not an expert. I always at least look at the original version, but my concerns are mainly with the already-existing English versions of our hymns. Very rarely does the change from the TLH version to the LSB version have anything to do with being more faithful to the German (or Latin); usually it has nothing to do with translation at all.

LSB can’t really avoid the word “mankind” in the opening line, but they avoid it for the rest of the hymn. The line “from sire to son the bane descends” gets the axe, and instead we have the limp “from one to all the curse descends,” because (a) patriarchy is bad, and (b) you don’t know what a bane is and can’t be bothered to learn. LSB’s version doesn’t even say the same thing. TLH’s version teaches us that every generation since Adam, and every act of generation, passes on original sin. “From sire to son.” This is why the Jews circumcised their sons: the organ by which a man sired sons was marked to show that his generation was corrupted by sin. TLH’s version puts you in mind of this truth, which is not taught as often as what LSB’s “from one to all” refers to. LSB’s version, while not untrue, is just neutered. (I hope that “neutered” doesn’t trigger people on Facebook. I can read it now: “Crude neuter language doesn’t strengthen any argument”!) It’s also bland and ugly by comparison, and that matters.

Verse 2 has more pointless gender-neutral “we” language, which, instead of directing our thoughts “extra nos” to the archetypes of the Old Adam and the New Adam (Christ), makes us all introspective and pietistic. On the bright side, if you know the old version and you’d like to sing it from memory, you’ll trip up at this point, get distracted, and have to fumble for the page number to see what other booby-traps are waiting for you. Oh wait that isn’t a bright side.

Verse 5 has one of those stupid Lutheran corrections. “We all received the gift of grace” doesn’t thread the needle tightly enough, because people might think that grace is infused or something. I don’t know what the deal is here. “We all were justified by grace” doesn’t actually fix the problem of potential misunderstanding; it, too, is lacking in precision…which is OK, because hymns have a bit more latitude than dogmatics textbooks. That doesn’t mean any amount of imprecision is allowable, but it does mean that there’s some leeway and poetic license. If you want to sing Francis Pieper’s Christian Dogmatics set to music, you might be a good guy and all, but you know nothing about beauty. (And don’t give me some derp “precise doctrinal formulation is the most beautiful thing.”) Again, why change the words? Is “we all received the gift of grace” unbiblical? No, it’s not. It ain’t broke, and it doesn’t need fixing, but some people just can’t leave well enough alone. Once again, this is a pointless booby-trap that cuts people off from one another and creates factions. But then if you don’t want to get on board with the new and inferior stuff, you’re the one who’s being divisive and a stick-in-the-mud.

I’ll stick with this mud, thanks. It’s actually very nutrient-rich soil, and it will be growing good things long after your bed of modernist clay has dried up. So there. See you next week sometime.

The rape of the Lutheran chorale -or- How LSB is subtly robbing you of your heritage

I wasn’t going to write this post, because I realized that it might commit me to writing something every week here, and I’m not sure I can handle that kind of pressure.

But then it happened again. I noticed a yuge difference between the chief hymn as sung in church from LSB and the chief hymn as sung at home from TLH. Last week, Trinity 5. This one was a doozy. I thought to myself, “This one is a doozy.” It dawned on me that there was a better way forward than my usual routine of taking pictures of offending verses from LSB and texting them to my friends with messages like “WHAT THE HELL?!” and “ARE YOU SERIOUS??”—yeah, an even better way forward than that, if you can believe it.

If I do end up writing a series, I guess this post will be the pilot episode. So pardon me if I go long on this one.

Last week, which among the churches of God is called Trinity 5 or the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, the chief hymn was “Come, Follow Me, The Savior Spake,” by Johann Scheffler. Yes, it is true that Scheffler became a papist later in life, but that’s a crap attempt at poisoning the well (heh, no pun was intended there, but Luther would be proud). You people still sing “The Infant Priest” even though Chad Bird became a serial adulterer. I know that you think becoming a Roman Catholic is worse, because you’re Lutherans, but seriously, don’t go there.

Here are the TLH and LSB versions side by side. Note verse 5:

TLH 421

LSB 688

1 Come, follow Me, the Savior spake,
All in My way abiding;
Deny yourselves, the world forsake,
Obey My call and guiding.
Oh, bear the cross, whate’er betide,
Take my example for your guide.

2 I am the Light, I light the way,
A godly life displaying;
I bid you walk as in the day,
I keep your feet from straying.
I am the way, and well I show
How you must sojourn here below.

3 My heart bounds in lowliness,
My soul with love is glowing,
And gracious words My lips express,
With meekness overflowing.
My heart, My mind, My strength, My all,
To God I yield, on Him I call.

4 I teach you how to shun and flee
What harms your soul’s salvation,
Your heart from every guile to free,
From sin and its temptation.
I am the refuge of the soul
And lead you to your heavenly goal.

5 Then let us follow Christ, our Lord,
And take the cross appointed
And, firmly clinging to His Word,
In suffering be undaunted.
For who bears not the battle’s strain
The crown of life shall not obtain.

Amen.

1 “Come, follow Me,” the Savior spake,
“All in My way abiding;
Deny yourselves, the world forsake,
Obey My call and guiding.
O bear the cross, whate’er betide,
Take my example for your guide.

2 “I am the Light, I light the way,
A godly life displaying;
I bid you walk as in the day;
I keep your feet from straying.
I am the way, and well I show
How you must sojourn here below.

3 “My heart abounds in lowliness,
My soul with love is glowing;
And gracious words My lips express,
With meekness overflowing.
My heart, My mind, My strength, My all,
To God I yield, on Him I call.

4 “I teach you how to shun and flee
What harms your soul’s salvation,
Your heart from ev’ry guile to free,
From sin and its temptation.
I am the refuge of the soul
And lead you to your heav’nly goal.”

5 Then let us follow Christ, our Lord,
And take the cross appointed
And, firmly clinging to His Word,
In suff’ring be undaunted.
For those who bear the battle’s strain
The crown of heav’nly life obtain.

 

Thanks, LSB, for helping us “keep it positive.” I guess all hymns need to end with a happy Gospel thought, too. Definitely wouldn’t want people to think that those who do not take up their cross and follow Christ might not enter heaven, even though the Bible says so:

Matthew 10:38: “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me.”

Luke 9:23-25: “And [Jesus] said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.

And just so there’s no doubt, LSB’s translation is unfaithful:

Modern Lutherans believe that Scripture is “perspicuous” until some perspicuous passage threatens one of their cherished antinomian beliefs. That’s generally how it goes. So they do things like edit the hymnal, sometimes subtly, sometimes grossly— as future installments will show (dang it, I guess that sounds kind of committed).

With few exceptions, the versions of our great Lutheran chorales which appear in LSB have been just gutted. Maybe you don’t think that’s a fair metaphor. Fine. Those that are not gutted are often critically maimed in small but significant ways. If someone cuts your pinky-toes off, you can’t walk. Yeah, great, no one gave you the Braveheart treatment, but how do you like being a cripple?

Why have our trusted LCMS theologians and “liturgical experts” done this to our hymns?

One reason is that our synod is severely infected with antinomianism. Some would say at the “highest levels.” I have a friend who left the LCMS for the WELS because, at least in his mind, the LCMS is full of “Fordeians” (a reference to the ELCA theologian Gerhard Forde) “at the highest levels.” (I’m not confident about my recollection of the full quote, but those were definitely the last four words.) He couldn’t stomach it anymore. That’s his take. I still wish he would’ve stayed, but like Bill Clinton, I feel his pain (this is the only way that I’m like Bill Clinton). There can be no doubt about it: the LSB’s rape of our great Lutheran hymns manifests an antinomian agenda. Sometimes it’s blatant, as with today’s example. Sometimes it’s more subtle. Later installments (dang, more commitment talk there) will bear witness to this, but I’ll say this for now: LSB’s obsessive stripping away of male pronouns and references to “man,” “mankind, and “men” should trouble you. And it’s all over the place. Feminism is a revolt against the order of creation, for which “patriarchy” is a perfectly good synonym. It is pure antinomianism.

A second reason: Beauty is confusing, apparently, and you’re stupid and wouldn’t benefit from encountering it, apparently, nor could you come to appreciate it. So LSB’s squad of “editors” just flattened the poetic contours of beautiful hymn-verses into Midwestern Nice so that you never have to worry about feeling awe or wonder stirring in your breast. It’s safer that way. You’ll “understand” it better. Snip snip. I’m glad that a hymnal committee didn’t decide what version of Shakespeare we all get to read. Can you imagine what these people would do to Romeo And Juliet? “Romeo, Romeo, huh, that sure is a funny name!”

The arrogance of these lyrical alterations is just astounding. Who are these people that they think they are free to hack away things that don’t fit their little procrustean beds-o’-the-moment? The great Lutheran hymnographers of old are dead and can’t protest the butchery of their work. All of this is like Chesterton’s fable of the gate: two men walk down a country lane and come upon a gate. The first says, “I don’t understand why this is here. Let’s tear it down.” The other says, “I don’t understand why this is here. We’d better not touch it.” To me the analogy is obvious, so I’m not going to bother spelling it out. I will say, though, that I would love to see the edits that our Lutheran fathers would make to our hymns. How would we like that? Probably not one bit. But because we are arrogant and ungrateful children, we have no problem turning the tables.

Whatever the intentions of LSB’s hymn-wrecking crew might have been, this is all objectively insidious: this is how tradition—good tradition, which is the act of passing down good things to the next generation—dies. It’s like the memory hole in George Orwell’s 1984. In today’s LCMS, converts and millennials—anyone who’s grown up only knowing LSB, basically—are effectively cut off from their heritage, and they don’t even know it. In fact, they—and the synod-o-crats who all seem to love the LSB—adopt an air of superiority around anyone who expresses frustration with it. Unless that person is Pastor Mark Preus. It’s really hard to adopt an air of superiority around Mark Preus. Not only is he ten times smarter than you (on the topic of Lutheran hymns and probably plenty of others), but he also looks like he could take a bite out of a truck bumper while singing “Salvation Unto Us Has Come.” Just stand down.

I’m not against new hymns, in theory. Yes, the LSB includes some good newer hymns that weren’t written when TLH first came out, but, really…not that many, when you think about it. And I’d give up every single one of the supposedly great new hymns in LSB if I could have all of Gerhardt’s hymns in their place—unmaimed and with the guts still in. Again, I’m not judging the intentions of (all of) the men who worked on LSB. I’m sure some of them had great intentions. But it’s a bad book. Containing good hymns does not make a hymnal good. A camel is a horse built by a committee. With each passing year, I think more people in the LCMS realize that the LSB’s horse costume is falling apart and the hump is poking through. We’re not going to whoop ass on the Apache while riding this steed.

But I’m going to try to be fair. If there’s a genuine improvement in LSB’s version of a hymn, or even if they just leave it a lone, I will certainly note this and give credit where credit is due. But that’s small comfort, and it’s not going to change the overall verdict, which has already been set by a jury way larger than one autistic guy on a gripe blog. Way larger. It includes those who are dead. (Didn’t Chesterton say something about that, too? Tradition is the democracy of the dead?)

That’s all I’ve got to say for now. If you want to follow along with this project, or work ahead of me, or if the concept of a chief hymn is new to you, consult this list. Look up the same hymns in TLH that are given for LSB.