Beliefnet
Disclaimer: Beliefnet loves sacred music, and recognizes that writing it--combining music, lines from scripture, and theology to create a memorable hymn--isn't an easy job. Still, we think George Weigel has a point: some hymns contain questionable theology. So with all due respect to poetic license, and with apologies for taking lines out of context, we offer the following sampler of hymns that have lost their way (or were simply too annoying to escape mention). Vote on each song to let us know what works for you--and what doesn't.

Once to Every Man and Nation
By James Lowell

Once to every man and nation,
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new messiah,
Offering each the bloom or blight...

New occasions teach new duties,
time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward,
who would keep abreast of truth.


Bad theology alert: Seems to endorse relativism; idea of absolute truth undermined. Plus, since when is a cause, even a righteous one, "God's new Messiah"? And does the opportunity to choose the good come only "once"? No wonder this hymn, originally a protest song about the Mexican-American war, was booted from the Episcopal hymnal in 1982 (on the plus side, different lyrics were written so the church could keep singing the stirring tune).

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Onward, Christian Soldiers
By Sabine Baring-GouldOnward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!


Problem: Though subsequent verses make it clear that the "battle" is against sin and the devil, some Christians feel uncomfortable with this hymn's martial tone.

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The Aye Carol
By John BellWho is the man who looks on at the door,
Welcoming strangers, some rich but most poor,
Scanning the world as if somehow unsure?
Joseph, the father of Jesus.


Bad theology alert: According to Christian doctrine, God is the father of Jesus. Joseph is sometimes called Jesus' "foster father."

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Earth and All Stars
By Herbert F. Brokering Classrooms and labs,
Loud boiling test tubes
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Athletes and band,
Loud cheering people
Sing to the Lord a new song!

Problem: Yes, we should be able to find God in all creation, but "loud boiling test tubes" is just dopey.

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"Earth and All Stars"?
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Those Who Love and Those Who Labor
By Geoffrey Dearmer

Jesus says to those who seek him,
I will never pass you by:
Raise the stone and you shall find me
Cleave the wood, and there am I.

The prince of common welfare
Dwells within the market strife...

Let the seeker never falter
Till the truth is found afar
With the wisdom of the ages
Underneath a giant star.
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