Tag Archives: W(h)ither The Great Lutheran Hymns?

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 7: “All Praise to God Who Reigns Above”

The chief hymn for Trinity 7, “All Praise to God Who Reigns Above,” is one of my favorite Lutheran chorales. Like many of the great seventeenth-century hymns, it was written by a guy who was so pietistic that he makes Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson look tame. Read about Johann Jakob Schütz here. J. S. Bach expanded on this hymn in one of his chorale-cantatas (see above), BWV 117, “Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut.”

Here’s the damage:

TLH 19
“All Praise to God Who Reigns Above”

LSB 819
“Sing Praise to God The Highest Good”

1. All praise to God, who reigns above,
The God of all creation,
The God of wonders, pow’r, and love,
The God of our salvation!
With healing balm my soul He fills,
The God who ev’ry sorrow stills,–
To God all praise and glory!
1. Sing praise to God, the highest good,
The author of creation,
The God of love who understood
Our need for His salvation.
With healing balm our souls He fills
And ev’ry faithless murmur stills:
To God all praise and glory!
2. What God’s almighty pow’r hath made,
His gracious mercy keepeth;
By morning dawn or evening shade
His watchful eye ne’er sleepeth;
Within the kingdom of His might,
Lo, all is just and all is right,–
To God all praise and glory!
2. What God’s almighty pow’r has made,
In mercy He is keeping.
By morning glow or evening shade
His eye is never sleeping.
Within the kingdom of His might
All things are just and good and right:
To God all praise and glory!
3. I cried to Him in time of need:
Lord God, oh, hear my calling!
For death He gave me life indeed
And kept my feet from falling.
For this my thanks shall endless be;
Oh, thank Him, thank our God, with me,–
To God all praise and glory!
3. We sought the Lord in our distress;
O God, in mercy hear us.
Our Savior saw our helplessness
And came with peace to cheer us.
For this we thank and praise the Lord,
Who is by one and all adored:
To God all praise and glory!
4. The Lord forsaketh not His flock,
His chosen generation;
He is their Refuge and their Rock,
Their Peace and their Salvation.
As with a mother’s tender hand
He leads His own, His chosen band,–
To God all praise and glory!
4. He never shall forsake His flock,
His chosen generation;
He is their refuge and their rock,
Their peace and their salvation.
As with a mother’s tender hand,
He leads His own, His chosen band:
To God all praise and glory!
5. Ye who confess Christ’s holy name,
To God give praise and glory!
Ye who the Father’s pow’r proclaim,
To God give praise and glory!
All idols under foot be trod,
The Lord is God! The Lord is God!
To God all praise and glory!
5. All who confess Christ’s holy name,
Give God the praise and glory.
Let all who know his pow’r proclaim
Aloud the wondrous story.
Cast ev’ry idol from its throne,
For God is God, and He alone:
To God all praise and glory!
6. Then come before His presence now
And banish fear and sadness;
To your Redeemer pay your vow
And sing with joy and gladness:
Though great distress my soul befell,
The Lord, my God, did all things well–
To God all praise and glory!
Uh, what happened?

The translation of the first line of this hymn as found in LSB is closer to the German. That is the last nice thing I am going to say about the LSB version.

In fact, that isn’t really a positive, because it requires monkeying with a perfectly good rhyme scheme. I guess references to God “reigning” must be omitted, as they might make us think that God is a king or something, rather than a president whom we got to vote for. “God the highest good” might be closer to the German, but it makes God sound like Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover. Then we’re off to the races, rhyming with “understood.” Really? Does anyone think this is pretty? “Uh-un-der-stood”? It’s ridiculous.

In the last installment I criticized the change from third-person singular to first-person plural, as in that particular instance it introduced needless introspection at an inappropriate juncture. This doesn’t mean that I’m against the first-person point-of-view or introspection in hymns—I am not. But I am against random changes for no reason. For example, I’m against weirdly pluralizing the first person POV. Take another look at the changes above: every “I” is now “we,” every “me” is now “us,” every “my” is now “our.” Whatever is the point of this, besides tripping up bitter TLH-clingers? LSB’s edits in this regard aren’t even consistent, so it can’t be that they think it’s never appropriate for the whole church to sing as the singular Body of Christ, with each person confessing the faith personally (as we do in the Creed). With both last week’s hymn and this week’s hymn, everything ends up in the first-person plural: “we,” “us,” and “our.” Why?

The words “the author” are awkward to sing, as you get locked into a shapeless elided vowel. Most people are going to sing “thuh” rather than “thee,” and this only makes it worse. It’s another needless change. But it doesn’t hold a candle to “faithless murmur.” I don’t know if I can think of a word less given to being set to music than “murmur.” If you’re alone, try shouting the word “murmur” at the top of your lungs. It’s awful. “MURRRR-MURRRR!!!” Yeah, they got rid of “every sorrow” so that we could all sound like seven-year-old boys making sound-effects for our toy lawnmowers.

Then there’s verse 2. Verse 2 in LSB is garbage. It’s a prime example of a huge problem with LSB in general, so I’ll talk about the huge general problem first:

When you say the Lord’s Prayer, would it ever occur to you to say this?

Our Father in heaven:
Holy be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us in the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil,
For yours is the kingdom, the power,
and glory forever. Amen.

The above is from what is commonly called the ’69 Worship Supplement, whose merits, if it had any, were drowned in the sea of its nonsensical blunders. I hope it would never occur to you to use that version of the Lord’s Prayer. If you really think this modernized version of the Lord’s Prayer is good, I wouldn’t trust you as far as I could throw you. And if I met you, and I somehow had learned of your vile modernism ahead of time, chances are good that I wouldn’t even say “hello,” I would just try to throw you. I don’t care if you’re 300 pounds, I’d do my best.

Imagine this conversation:

“How about we change the Lord’s Prayer?”

“No! Are you crazy? The Lord’s Prayer is special. Everyone knows that.”

“But no one talks that way anymore.”

“So? That’s part of what shows you that it’s sacred: it’s set apart from our everyday speech. A fixed idiom symbolizes the unchanging nature of God’s Word. An older idiom reminds us that God’s Word, our great heritage, is from of old, and that it’s timeless.”

“OK. Well, how about we change the text of the liturgy so that it’s a weird mixed idiom where everything that’s sung is Jacobean and everything that’s spoken is modern? And let’s ‘update the language’ of random hymns.”

“Oh, that’s fine. The liturgy and hymns aren’t special. Only the Bible is. And not even the whole Bible—just the Lord’s Prayer.”

“OK. Here, I made you a hymnal. I call it Lutheran Service Book.”

“What’s that on the cover?”

“Clip art.”

I rest my case.

If we come across a hymn written in 1970, we shouldn’t expect it to sound like Victorian poetry (although given the general quality of that decade’s output, that would be a pleasant surprise). But when we come across hymns that were composed or translated in the Victorian era, we act like we can’t possibly understand them: “‘Keepeth’? ‘Thy’? ‘Ye’? What do these words mean? Why can’t everyone talk like me?”

Actually, we, the laity, don’t say that. Rather, the LCMS hymnal committee imagines that such people exist. If such people exist, their whims should be corrected, not indulged. And whoever they are, they’re not jonesing for language updates to the hymnal—they don’t even use the hymnal, or hymns, for crying out loud! They use projector screens and maybe Lutheran Service Builder, and they sing pitchy crap like “In Christ Alone” led by a “worship team.” They find the very idea of a hymnal to be confining. Ironically, they’re exactly the sort of people who would probably really dig verse 5 of LSB 585, “Lord Jesus Christ With Us Abide.” They’d probably sing it from a projector screen at their “traditional service,” set to keyboard, and they’d all think about those closed-minded people who would dim the words God’s Spirit wants them to sing by forcing them to use a hymnal/drop their Beth Moore study. Some of the aging soccer moms would read ahead quickly so that they could sing this line with their eyes closed and their hands raised. You know I’m right. “Language updates” are not made because a significant subset of the laity is requesting them. They’re just not.

No, “language updates” are made by synod-o-crats with little or no pastoral experience who think that the reason people don’t use the hymnal is because they don’t know what “thy” means. But this is absurd. The hymnal committee was not responding to this sort of feedback:

Yes, hello? My 1.2 children don’t know what ‘thy’ means in the hymns that we never sing in our church, because we only sing the Methodist hymns/do contemporary worship, and by the way we don’t even attend regularly—but that’s also because the hymns which we don’t sing make us feel unwelcome. In the next hymnal, which we won’t use, could you ruin all of those hymns?

Come on. The people who love and sing the great Lutheran chorales have never wanted or asked for the language to be updated, and the people to whom the updates are supposedly going to make these hymns “more accessible” never sang them to begin with and aren’t going to start singing them just because they now sound like crap. That’s called a failure of in-reach.

Here’s the thing: a poet or hymn-writer can reach back and make use of an older idiom, and his work can still sound beautiful. He doesn’t have to, but he can. The older idiom has stood the test of time. It is not just time-tested, but time-honored. To imitate it is to be informed by and defer to its wisdom and beauty. We need to kill this stupid notion that the essence of creativity is “being original.” That’s a load of godless secular crap. (I would use stronger words, but I don’t want to cut too much into the Jagged Word’s readership.) Good artists imitate. Good artists respect convention. Good artists incorporate the past into their present work. Bach did this all the time with the well-loved hymns of his day.

But it really doesn’t work in reverse. You can’t take something that was written in an older idiom and render it into a new one without doing violence to it. And you have no right to do so. Notice that little “alt.” after almost every author or translator’s name in LSB? Nine times out of ten, that means “we don’t have the talent to do our own hymn translations, but we will gladly screw with this one.” The analogy to this hilarious—yet horrifying—news story is too perfect:

Three separate photographs of “Ecce Homo” by painter Elias Garcia Martinez show extensive damage caused by an elderly woman who decided the masterpiece needed a little refurbishment.

But in a time of austerity, rather than calling in a professional to complete the job, the unnamed woman attempted to restore the mural herself – at a devastating cost.

The result was a botched repair where the intricate brush strokes of Martinez were replaced with a haphazard splattering of the octogenarian’s paint. Years of carefully calculated depth of expression simply washed out by copious amounts of red and brown.

The comparisons make themselves. Oy vey. Remember, this dear sweet lady had the best of intentions.

“Hey, but if you can’t take something that was written in an older idiom and render it into a new one, then we wouldn’t have the ESV.” Yeah, I know. And what a wonderful world it would be. The ESV is an absolute mule of a Bible translation. The King James Version is the most beautiful translation of Scripture out there. It’s not perfect, no, but it’s still the best. You modernists and your neverending quest for a perfect English translation have only ushered in confusion and uncertainty. If you don’t like the King James, I don’t know what to tell you. You’re probably a Philistine with a disordered soul. Get help.

I would guess that Martin Franzmann’s hymns have maybe twenty more years before an LCMS hymnal committee of the future decides to “fix” their archaic language. He wrote his hymns in the middle of the twentieth century, yet had the audacity to use fancy, confusing, purty-words. What a highbrow jerk! All confessional LCMS Lutherans seem to know and love “Thy Strong Word,” even though its not his best hymn (it’s still a good hymn, though), so let’s imagine what an updated version of it would look like:

Thy strong word did cleave the darkness;
At thy speaking it was done.
For created light we thank thee
While thine ordered seasons run.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise to thee who light dost send!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia without end!
Your strong word did cut the darkness;
At your speaking it was done.
You made light, so we say “thank you”
While the seasons run and run.
Alleluia! Alleluia! We praise you for justification!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Jesus has won.

You laugh, but this is what we do to the old translations of the great Lutheran chorales. Update the pronouns, rephrase things pointlessly, change the topic, and overcompensate for real or perceived weaknesses.

Make your own judgment about verse 3. LSB’s version is clearly inferior. Verse 4 is relatively unmaimed. Verse 5 is a train-wreck. In general, it is good English style to reserve the definite article “the” for things which are actually singular and distinct. This is one of the reasons why you sound like an idiot when you sing, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,” although this wouldn’t be improved by getting rid of the definite article. All I’m saying is, “Give God the praise and glory” sounds schmaltzy and is a definite downgrade in eloquence from “To God give praise and glory.” And the lovely parallelism of TLH’s version with its double refrain of “To God give praise and glory” gets scrapped so that instead we can exhort each other to “proclaim / Aloud the wondrous story.” This is a line written for a warbling choir of suburbanite women, but no one else.

LSB says that you don’t get to sing verse 6. In a way this is good, because one shudders to think what would have happened to it. I think I know why it got the axe: “To your Redeemer pay your vow” makes it sound like worship is something we owe to God. Zounds, it might even make you think that you have to go church. I’ve got news for you: it is and you do. I know that we recently called Pastor Hans Fiene a troll, but he said something awhile ago that was spot on: “Saying that you don’t have to go to church in order to be a Christian is like saying, ‘I follow Jesus except everywhere He goes.” Something like that. It was good. “Thou shalt sanctify the holy day.” As God’s redeemed children, we are not burdened by this command, but it is still a command. But in the antinomian LCMS, we durst not talk this way. Snip, snip. Goodbye, verse 6, which is written for a choir of strong male voices—another reason why it had to go. Too manly. Anyway, nothing is stopping you from singing this verse, un-gutted, un-maimed, and un … molested. Just pick up your TLH.

Overall, what we see with this week’s chief hymn are yet more needless changes. Why? So that some committeeman could put his personal stamp on this hymn? I don’t know, maybe each person on a subcommittee got to edit a stanza. That sounds nice and collaborative. No elitism here! So the next time you lament the destruction of one of your favorite hymns by the LCMS, comfort yourself with this thought: every time the Schmitzes and the Muellers come over to that guy’s house for Thanksgiving, he’s going to get out the LSB, turn to that formerly great hymn, find the verse in question, and say, “That right there is my little contribution,” and beam with pride. Mark this well: boomers will sacrifice anything for a warm fuzzy feeling of personal accomplishment. Even your heritage.

I don’t judge these men’s hearts. I am not condemning them. This is not the end of the world we’re talking about here, just the ruination of a hymnal. I don’t doubt that the air in those committee-meetings was thick with good intentions. But many of those men just did not know what they did not know. They shouldn’t have been put in the position of editing a hymnal. Others knew a lot, but had an anti-traditional agenda. Others were exactly the sort of men you’d want working on a new hymnal, but they were outnumbered…or kicked off the committee. Now we have to pay the piper. And the drummer, and the guitarist, and the worship chanteuse.

Alright, I’m done. I think I’ll start doing these a week ahead of time. That way if I manage to convince (or embolden) the odd pastor to use the TLH version of the chief hymn, he can save the image and print it out. If a high-resolution scan of the hymn is available from hymnary.org, I will include it at the end of every post.

Aside from that one guy on Facebook, I don’t know if anyone reads these posts, and I don’t presume to think of myself as some great influencer of opinion, public or private. I’m just giving voice to what we all know to be true but don’t want to say because of the insane social pressure, gossip, and backstabbing of the world of Facebook Lutheranism: this is our heritage, and we’re losing it.

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.