Christ Is Alive!--a Critique
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,054
    Here is one final critique from my archives that I feel is worth sharing. Its history is this: I was attending a Seminar on Teaching Hymnology at Calvin College and our class project was to work with a partner to provide input on a forthcoming new hymnal for the Christian Reformed Church. It gave me an opportunity to write out my reasons for thinking there are theological problems with Christ Is Alive, which is ordinarily set to the very enjoyable TRURO. I have a degree in theology so this reflection is written in a denser, non-bloggy style.

    (For those who might be interested I have a much less urgent criticism of 'Tis Good, Lord, to be Here, here: http://hymnographyunbound.blogspot.com/2006/03/hymn-that-has-its-ups-and-downs.html
    What I mean by "less urgent" is that I would not hesitate to sing this hymn at Mass, even though I avoid programming it.)

    ______________

    Christ Is Alive!


    This hymn, while popular, is theologically problematic.

    In verse 1, the image of an empty cross against the sky is used. Biblically, this image cannot represent the resurrection, because the cross was already “empty” on Good Friday evening, when the Lord was dead. The empty tomb is the biblical symbol of the resurrection, not the empty cross. Poetically there is a problem as well: the usual reworking of the fourth line “His love in death shall never die” is not a clear English expression.

    In verse 2, the implication is that there was a time when Christ was “bound to distant years in Palestine.” But that implies that the Trinity was deficient during the time of the earthly life of Jesus, which cannot be correct.

    Verse 3 implies that God was remote from His people until the resurrection. But this is not true for many reasons: first, God’s holiness was a holiness of presence and intimacy with the Hebrew community. Secondly, I John connects the tangibility of Jesus with the Incarnation, not the resurrection.

    In verse 4, the idea of the Risen Christ suffering is at the very least controversial.

    Although it’s good to connect the Resurrection with its implications in daily life, this song fails to do that quite correctly.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Woah, watch out Kathy. There's actually two versions of this. Like "We Gather Together", it was modified by someone with an agenda. The original text is in The Hymnal 1940. I made a point not to use the newer one, if only because it's a slap in the face to rewrite the older one.
  • This hymn does not appear in The Hymnal 1940. I just checked.

    Kathy wrote: In verse 4, "the idea of the Risen Christ suffering is at the very least controversial." I share her discomfort with this notion, which is expressed in many contemporary hymns.

    On the other hand, being bound to time and place is part of being a human being in this world--which is what the Logos became. So I don't think that "bound to distant years in Palestine" poses any problem.

    I see Kathy's point about empty cross versus empty tomb. Perhaps this verse can be altered to advantage; but as it stands I do not think it is seriously objectionable.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I thought there was another version of this. I'll look through my hymnals and see what I was thinking. Here is the text under discussion: http://www.oremus.org/hymnal/c/c055.html I too find it very problematic and make a point not to use it.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Kathy, I found your analysis very insightful. Thank you so much for posting it. And I went to the link and found the' Bad Hymns ' in the blog, and learned a lot. Remind us to think of the texts more carefully. Is it ok I share your post above in my blog and say written by Kathy (?, Sorry, don't know your last name.). I don't know how to this properly.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,054
    Thanks, Mia, feel free to share it.

    Would you mind just linking to my blog, at the end of your quotation from it? I believe that this is the standard way.

    It's never going to be a frequently-visited blog. Who wants to analyze hymns all day? In fact, almost all my traffic comes from google searches for particular hymns. Which is nice, too.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Ok, I'll do that. Thanks
    I think we should really study the hymns before we sing. (At least MDs, should do that. They select the hymns for congregation to sing, and that's a big responsibility. So much work for MDs today. I truly admire you guys. All that presuure and extra work you have to deal with in this confused culture.)
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    It occured to me that this is really important that weeding out bad hymns (or even slightly confusing hymns) has to be done, unfortunately, with promoting sacred music in our today's liturgy. And the Bishops take music more seriously and really 'inspect' the hymns in 'apporved Hymnals.' How we can evangelize the 'world' as the Church asks when we are confused with our catholic faith? Some seem to think that evangelize with watered down faith works better than holding the Truth. (Did Jesus really compromised with the world?)
    We go to mass to receive the Truth. The mass is the fountain of our faith, and then here we are, we are asked to sing confusing songs (actually weakening our faith) We should all be aware of what we are singing. But it seems that all the good musicians here have another specialty than performing music in helping each other. Some are more talented with making new music, interpreting rules, technology experts and analyzing hymns and etc. I hope you can keep doing this, whenever you can, and enlighten us, so we will be also reminded of this problem and learn more about it. Thanks.