Why attempt to renew the language of our great hymns so that they communicate in the language of modern singers? The same question was asked in the mid-20th Century about why there was a need for translations other than the King James Version. The case in favor of modern Scripture translation is best based on the recognition that the New Testament writers -- inspired by the Holy Spirit -- deliberately bypassed the beautiful, poetic style of Classical Greek and instead chose to communicate in everyday Hellenistic Greek, as spoken by the masses at the time of the apostles. God chose that the Gospel be communicated in the common of the time. Then or now, any other approach can put a linguistic barrier between the good news of Jesus Christ and the people that God seeks to reach.
If we recognize a need for Scripture to be communicated in everyday language, surely there is no justification for Christian gospel songs to be immunized from revisions that will allow them to communicate in a clear, modern fashion? This is not to say that there is not a time and place for original texts of hymns to be used. But is that place a worship setting where non-Christians may be attending? Is beauty of (archaic) language to be prized over putting the good news in a more understandable form? Shouldn’t we instead – as the original New Testament writers did – seek to communicate the gospel in everyday speech so that it is most likely to wing its way into the hearts and minds of non-believers and our children? Which is more important: maintaining the historic integrity of a lyric or facilitating the message it is meant to convey?
Hymn lyric renewal proceeds on the presumption that even the original writers would have been far more concerned for the continued clear communication of the thoughts that inspired them than preservation of their versification. Hymn lyric renewal thus offers an opportunity to save our classic hymns – and the depth of meaning their original writers sought to communicate – and to present them fresh to a new generation IN ITS LANGUAGE.