Archive for April, 2012

Review of “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns”

April 12, 2012

Why Johnny can’t sing Hymns: How pop culture rewrote the hymnal
©2010 by T. David Gordon
Published by P & R Publishing Company
187 pages

A professor of religion and Greek at Grove City College, T. David Gordon previously taught New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for thirteen years and for nine years was the pastor of a Presbyterian church. Though an ordained Presbyterian minister, he currently attends an Anglican Church. He holds at least three advanced theological degrees (MAR, ThM, PhD).

“It is not merely the case that Johnny doesn’t sing hymns. It is truer to say that Johnny cannot sing hymns. Johnny has been so swallowed up in a contemporaneous, casual, trivial, youth-centered, guitar-playing pop culture that for him, music, by definition, sounds contemporary.” (p. 174)

Previously I read Gordon’s book Why Johnny can’t preach: the media have shaped the messengers. I believe you could summarize his thesis thusly; Johnny can’t preach because Johnny is too stupid. He admits that much of his opinions are based on his experience in the reformed style churches. That is the only problem with the book. It is so subjective. That doesn’t mean though that he isn’t right. I would hate to have him evaluate one of my sermons (and he would no doubt hate having to).

There is a similar tone in this work. Gordon makes many good points, but his broad-brush characterizations too often drown him out. This book was excruciating to read. I couldn’t figure out where I fit. His generalizations of those who don’t sing hymns (exclusively) weren’t describing me. But I certainly didn’t buy into all of his arguments either.