"The New Century Hymnal," edited by Arthur G. Clyde (Pilgrim Press, ecumenical edition, 928 pp.; $16.95, hardcover). Reviewed by Donald G. Bloesch, emeritus professor of theology, University of Dubuque (Iowa) Theological Seminary.
The theological and cultural revolution of our times is nowhere more poignantly reflected than in the almost frenetic production of new hymnals in the mainline Protestant denominations. The emphasis on pluralism, inclusivism, multiculturalism, and environmentalism is especially evident in "The New Century Hymnal," which has the endorsement of the United Church of Christ establishment. (Its use cannot be mandated because of the UCC's congregational polity.) The compilers tell us that their concern is to give a fresh portrayal of Jesus Christ in symbols appropriate to the new century ahead of us. They do not, however, press for a wholesale rejection of more traditional images and symbols; their intention is to revise traditional language in order to avoid diminishing people for whatever reason. This can therefore be considered a politically correct hymnal, but it nevertheless displays a certain sensitivity to the need to preserve continuity with the church universal.
The creation of a new hymnal is a collective enterprise encompassing countless choices, large and small, and requiring the participation of many people. A close examination of this monumental but misguided undertaking (851 hymns and chants) reveals a commitment to reconceive God in terms of a democratic egalitarian ideology that rejects hierarchy and patriarchy. God is only rarely depicted as Father, Lord, and Ruler and never as King and Master. Among the new designations for God are the "All-inclusive One," "Great Spirit," "Architect ...1
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