In the little corner of the Reformed tradition that I’m in, the church I serve uses a hymnal sometimes called “The Blue Psalter” or “The Psalter Hymnal.” It has hymns that are based on the psalms, hymns based on some other parts of the Bible, and it has hymns based on Christian doctrine. Some of the hymns are outstanding, some are not so great.
In my opinion, one of the great weaknesses of this hymnal is the horribly archaic language. Here are a few words I found just skimming some of the psalm-based hymns (note: these words would be great for Banannagram!):
Deign, fealty, inwrought, girth, ye, dost, verdant, plighted troth, nay, vaunt, maidens, endue, ere, proffers, copious, benighted, rapturous, hearken, twixt, garners, riven tide, flayed, mayst, ore, biddest, apace, quell, aye, wroth, mete, bewail, and goodly (just to name a few).
To keep a long post short, I think we need to update this language to make the songs clearer. There isn’t a theological or biblical reason to keep archaic language, syntax, and grammar. It is not more reverent to sing like a 17th century Englishman. In fact, one might make a good case based on the perspicuity of Scripture that our psalms and hymns should be clear and understandable.
All this to say I believe that the Book of Psalms for Worship (Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant Publications, 2009) is a great replacement for the psalms part of the old “Blue Psalter.” The psalms in the Book of Psalms for Worship are not hymns based on psalms (like the Blue Psalter); they are singable renditions of the psalms that are in modern language (they sort of read like the ESV). Though I’ve only had it for a month, I have read through big parts of it and know from experience that they sing well in worship. So far, I’m very pleased with it. For a sample, here are the first four lines of Psalm 51(C) sung to the tune of “Rock of Ages” (Toplady 77.77.77).
God be merciful to me;
On your love I rest my plea.
By your vast abounding grace,
My transgressions all erase.
From the stain of every sin,
Wash and make me clean within.
Now to find a theologically/biblically solid modern hymnal….. Comments? Suggestions?