Christianity Today reported on a study from Southern Wesleyan University which found that over 60% of the 30 most popular hymns and 30 most popular songs of worship in the past five years referred to Jesus. . In contrast, the Father is referenced at 7% in songs of worship and 16% in hymns, while the Spirit is referenced at 5% in songs of worship and 2% in hymns. This study asks many Christians the following question: Where is the trinity in Christian hymns and worship music?
The trinity is a fundamental aspect of Christian belief because it encompasses the divinity of God in three components: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Christian music emphasizes the personal relationship with the Son but seldom refers to the Father and the Holy Spirit. This lack of Trinitarian language can be problematic because it does not fully represent the Trinity during service. Although some may claim that naming the Father, Son, or Spirit is sufficient for the whole trinity because Christian doctrine claims that the trinity is three in one.
Jen Edwards, head of the music and drama department, referred to a study she conducted on Christian hymns and worship music, which found “an absence of Trinitarian language, especially in songs written in 2000 and beyond “. Edwards broke down the structure of the hymns, claiming that the first verse is about God the Father, the second verse is about Jesus the Son, the third verse about the Spirit, and the fourth verse is about the second coming or church. However, not all hymns or worship songs are structured this way.
âI would say modern, evangelical, non-denominational mega-churchesâ¦ they struggle with the Trinitarian balance,â Edwards said. She pointed out that some churches or artists find a Trinitarian balance in their songwriting but strongly focused on Jesus.
âI think it definitely influences the way we see God. If we sing songs about Jesus, I think we tend to see God as a close friend who truly accepts, a close companion, who wants a relationship with us, who is ready to die for us, âEdwards said. âBut sometimes we miss God the righteous, the sovereign, the all-powerful, the omniscient and the one who demands respect,â she continued.
Liesl Dromi, assistant vocal teacher, said “maybe the emphasis is more individualistic” and she focuses on personal witnessing when writing. The emphasis on personal, testimony, or Christ-centered songs stems from the familiarity and connection people feel when they sing about God, Christ, or the Spirit. The issues, however, can boil down to the writing of the song itself.
âI think the lyrics follow the simplicity of the song’s melody and the melody has to be simple for the congregation to pick up on it,â Dromi said. The limitations of writing a song can come from the timing and rhythmic beats that an author wishes to produce, which can create issues with the lyrical patterns of a song. Additionally, the mysterious nature of Spirit and Father encloses writers, forcing more creative ideas to refer to their presence in music.
Edwards went on to say that writing Trinitarian songs is difficult from a songwriter’s perspective, especially because of the struggle to maintain the Trinitarian balance. Edwards said songwriters learn to “keep it simple [and]write about one thing.
To rectify this, Edwards proposed that Christian songwriters incorporate a system of control and balance when creating new pieces. The creation of this system encourages writers to determine which aspect of the trinity or the church deserves more coverage for its music.
Edwards said, “I would like the songwriters to push in every verse to tell the story of the Godhead or for us to include more songs that have beliefs embedded with the three parts of the trinity.”
Dromi encourages songwriters to compose worship music that invokes thought and embodies the divinity of God. âI think these songwriters need to do more with the lyrics and respect that their congregations are smart and thirsty for rich doctrinal knowledge,â Dromi said.
Therefore, may the faith we sing be in remembrance of the three-in-one divinity of God, who is merciful as a Savior, Friend, and Giver of Life. âThe faith we sing about is the faith we remember,â Edwards said.
Graphic: Jeffrey Hernandez, The Threefold Advocate