Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

11 Sep 2023

The Good Old Songs and “In Christ Alone”

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When we sang “In Christ Alone” recently in church, the copyright date grabbed my attention. The hymn came out in 2001, meaning many of those who graduated from college this last May would have never attended a church service before it was being used by God’s people.

Sometimes Christians can lament that churches no longer sing some of the older songs. Often they are not thinking of truly older texts but the songs they sang when they were growing up that they did not realize were actually pretty new at the time. So I thought of a few other modern hymns that are a bit older than “In Christ Alone”—”Before the Throne of God Above” was copyrighted in 1997, and “How Deep the Father’s Love” in 1995—and began to consider how, for a 13-year-old in our church today (born in 2010), these songs would compare to songs sung in church in 1963, for a 13-year-old then (born in 1950). That means looking at songs that were copyrighted beginning in 1935 (making the song 28 years old in 1963, like “How Deep The Father’s Love” is 28 years old today). Many of the songs that we might think of as being “old” today were actually newer in 1963 than some of the modern hymns we sing today.

First, a few of the songs that would have just been slightly older in 1963 than “How Deep the Father’s Love” is today:

  • “All That Thrills My Soul” (1931)
  • “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus” (1932)
  • “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” (1932)
  • “He Lives” (I Serve a Risen Savior) (1933)
  • “Calvary Covers It All” (1934)

Next, a few songs that would be older at the time than “In Christ Alone” is today but younger than “How Deep the Father’s Love”:

  • “Now I Belong to Jesus” (1938)
  • “For God So Loved the World” (1938)
  • “Victory in Jesus” (1939)

One song that would be same age as “In Christ Alone”:

  • “He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions” (1941)

Then several songs that would have been newer than “In Christ Alone” is today:

  • “My Hope Is in the Lord” (1945)
  • “There’s Room at the Cross” (1946)
  • “How Great thou Art” (1949)
  • “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” (1952)
  • “So Send I You” (1954)
  • “The Wonder of It All” (1956)
  • “Fill My Cup, Lord” (1959)
  • “His Name Is Wonderful” (1959)
  • “The Saviour Is Waiting” (1958)
  • “How Wonderful Art Thou” (1959)
  • “He Touched Me” (1963)

Then two songs that would be produced a few years later.

  • “Redeemed” (How I Love to Proclaim It) (ADA Tune) (1967)
  • “Be Thou Exalted” (1969)

Finally, a comparison of songwriters: John Peterson composed several songs (texts and/or tunes) that many churches sing that would have been younger in 1963 than “In Christ Alone” is today. In some ways, the timeframe of his songs in 1963 would compare well to many produced by modern hymn writers today, like the Gettys, Stuart Townend, Chris Anderson, Matt Boswell, etc.

  • “It Took A Miracle” (1948)
  • “He Owns the Cattle on a Thousand Hills” (1948)
  • “Springs of Living Water” (I Thirsted in the Barren Land) (1950)
  • “Jesus Led Me All the Way” (1954)
  • “Jesus is Coming Again” (1957)
  • “Surely Goodness and Mercy” (1958)
  • “Heaven Came Down” (1961)
  • “God’s Final Call” (1961)
  • “How Can It Be” (1961)
  • “I Just Keep Trusting My Lord” (1962)

Sixty years from now (if the Lord tarries), in 2083, will the then 73-year-old wish that his church sang some of the good old songs he grew up singing, like “The Power of the Cross,” “His Mercy Is More,” “My Jesus Fair,” “Behold Our God,” and “In Christ Alone”?

2 Responses

  1. Ben Wright

    I’d argue that the vast majority of the pre-1963 songs you list may be old songs, but they aren’t good songs. (We sing just three from that list, but scores of the best hymns from centuries prior.)

    If you’re in a good church in 2083, I suspect you’ll be singing most, maybe all of the good old songs you grew up with. But the inferior products of this age will go the way of the John W. Peterson catalogue.

    1. Ben Edwards

      I will say: my final question is not meant to have an obvious answer, but to spark the kind of reasoning/thinking you worked through.