Thursday, January 29, 2009

Good Readings on Problems of Hymn Texts

Christ Is Alive!
This hymn, while popular, is theologically problematic.
In verse 1, the image of an empty cross against the sky is used. Biblically, this image cannot represent the resurrection, because the cross was already “empty” on Good Friday evening, when the Lord was dead. The empty tomb is the biblical symbol of the resurrection, not the empty cross. Poetically there is a problem as well: the usual reworking of the fourth line “His love in death shall never die” is not a clear English expression.
In verse 2, the implication is that there was a time when Christ was “bound to distant years in Palestine.” But that implies that the Trinity was deficient during the time of the earthly life of Jesus, which cannot be correct.
Verse 3 implies that God was remote from His people until the resurrection. But this is not true for many reasons: first, God’s holiness was a holiness of presence and intimacy with the Hebrew community. Secondly, I John connects the tangibility of Jesus with the Incarnation, not the resurrection.
In verse 4, the idea of the Risen Christ suffering is at the very least controversial.
Although it’s good to connect the Resurrection with its implications in daily life, this song fails to do that quite correctly.

The hymns text is found here.

More Hymn analysis,

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