This is an example of a review of a song that we do… in this case, it’s a hymn from our hymnal, In the Cross of Christ I Glory. This was an interesting one, because a lot of it doesn’t sound too bad … and, obviously, the title sounds great. This is a more confusing and slightly less obvious problematic song, so perhaps it is not the best as the “first song review of the blog,” but oh well.
Since you probably don’t know all the verses by heart (I don’t even know one of them), here they are.
In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.
When the woes of life o’ertake me,
Hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me:
Lo! it glows with peace and joy.
When the sun of bliss is beaming
Light and love upon my way,
From the cross the radiance streaming
Adds more lustre to the day.
Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
By the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that through all time abide.
Reviews are based primarily on the text itself. When things are ambiguous, sometimes we’ll also go take a look at the author and where he was coming from, as well as see if there are additional verses not included in our hymnal that shed light on the verses we do have.
The first thing to notice is how the “glory in the cross” is taken. Biblically, we glory in the cross because it has redeemed us… there was nothing we could do, but Christ died on the cross, thus we “glory” in it. We give it weight. Christ’s death on the cross is a big deal in relation to our salvation.
This song, however, does not mention salvation specifically. Perhaps we could somehow insert it into some of the lyrics … but it does not really mention it. Instead, the cross is spoken of as somehow making this life … brighter, better, or something. For example, it “adds more luster to the day.” Or, it somehow gives comfort, when “hopes deceive and fears annoy.” Is that true? Well, yes, because of our salvation. But, again, the song does not mention salvation, nor does it even mention Christ, aside from it being the “cross of Christ.”
There are other ambiguities as well; such as “all the light of sacred story gathers round it’s head sublime.” I’m still not sure what that means, aside from somehow trying to say that the story of the cross is beautiful in some way… I guess?
Since it was ambiguous and we weren’t really sure what the point was, we looked up the author, John Bowring. Turns out he was a Unitarian who denied the deity of Christ. In one poem (The Life of Christ), he talked of “the man whom men have deified.” (see this link and this link).
Interestingly, this song is actually used to try to prove that Bowring did believe in the deity of Christ. I really don’t see anything in the song that would make me believe that, whereas the statement in The Life of Christ is pretty clear.
We decided that this song is not appropriate. Reasons? It’s unclear and ambiguous, it seems to glory in the cross in an unbiblical way, and it does not speak of the cross with relation to salvation. If you have grown up singing this song, you likely have filled in the blanks or sort of re-interpreted the song based on your knowledge. However, because we don’t know about everyone’s place in their walk with Christ and growth in their relationship and knowledge (and discernment), ambiguity, lack of clarity, and misplaced statements of why we glory in the cross seem to be dangerous. The cross is not something we want to treat lightly or leave up for interpretation; we should be clear when we talk about it.