Battle of the Hymnals

Not long ago I began to notice the major changes that have occurred within the SDA Hymnal compared to the ones prior to 1980. When I pondered the impact that singing a doctrine or belief over and over can have not only on us, but also our children, it made me pause and consider the implications of these changes. We have seen how powerful the tool of music can be in memorizing scripture. We have also seen in the world how powerful a tool for evil music can be as well. As I began to explore these frightening changes, I came across this article by Blair Andrew. It so well explored this issue that I have chosen to share it here on our web ministry. I hope you find it as enlightening as I did.

“Singing With Real Understanding.”

A brief review of changing Adventist Church Hymnals

Over the years since the beginning of the Great Second Advent Movement there have been a succession of Church Hymnals containing the favorites of God’s people. From the 1849 “Hymns for God’s Peculiar People that Keep the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus”; to the first “official” “Hymns and Tunes for Those Who Keep the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus” published in 1869, “there was . . . a power in what was called Advent singing, such as was felt in no other.”1. Later “Hymns and Tunes” was published in 1886, followed by “Christ in Song” released in 1908. In 1936 the General Conference in session recommended that a new church hymnal be prepared and in 1941 we saw “The Church Hymnal” published the volume most familiar to older Adventists.

The singing of praises to God through the use of Hymns is a long held tradition amongst Adventists. Hymns are a powerful reminder of the way God has led in the past, and a source of encouragement to all in times of trouble. But it was with the release of “The Church Hymnal” in 1941 that an imperceptible change came into Adventist Hymns. Doctrinal deviation from accepted Adventist teaching had never been sanctioned in a church hymnal before. More Catholic and Anglican hymns appeared, and a shift in theology was reflected in the words of some hymns. Only a few years before the hymnal was published, the first Church Manual had been released, and a new Adventist “Fundamental Beliefs” had been authored. This shift in theology, found in the Fundamental Beliefs and the Hymnal, was the introduction of trinitarianism into the Church. Although not “officially” ratified into the 27 Fundamentals until 1980, the move was hardly noticed by the majority of Adventists, and only a few of the older members questioned the shift in theology.

It was with the publishing of the present volume, “The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal,” in 1985, that we again saw the hymnal being used seriously as an instrument for change. In this latest release there are more changes that, when noticed, should have raised more than the eyebrows of God’s people. But, as in the story of the frog slowly boiled in the cooking pot, the change in Adventist doctrine had crept in slowly and quietly, and only a few realized the implications of the words they were singing.

We are told in the “Introduction” to the hymnal that the Church Hymnal committee has “sought hymns well suited for congregational singing and examined each one for scriptural and doctrinal soundness.” – p.6. Further we read that the committee “sought hymns that affirm the distinctive beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists as well as those that express points of faith we hold in common with other Christian bodies.” – ibid. Let us take a look and see if the committee fulfilled its purpose.

Besides some obvious new additions, such as No. 467, “Life is Great! So Sing About it”, or the “Shops and buses” song as it could be called, there are many hymns which have either been added from non-Adventist sources, or have had their words changed from the previous editions so that outside doctrine was then being taught through the words. These subtle changes in the wording of hymns are probably acceptable to the vast majority of newer Adventists, as many today have come out of other churches, whether Protestant or Catholic. But let us first look at these changes, so that we might better understand the direction being taken by those involved in preparing this current Hymnal.

Additions and Changes.

Firstly, in “The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal”, 1985 edition, there is a section entitled “Trinity” which had never existed before in any SDA Hymnal. But, oddly enough, hymns with trinitarian concepts are not confined to this section, as we shall see. Another interesting addition was the inclusion of a corporate reading section at the rear of the Hymnal, (larger than the 1941 edition’s “responsive readings”) giving it more of a familiar feel for Roman Catholics and Anglicans as they come into the Adventist Church. Oddly enough, the Bible versions used in this section are largely the N.I.V., N.A.S.B., N.E.B., R.S.V., T.E.V., N.K.J.V., and the Jerusalem Bible (Roman Catholic Bible). In the 1941 edition, the Authorised King James Version, used by Adventists since 1844, is used throughout the Responsive Readings. In this later edition, it is rarely used. Looking through the hymns, we find some interesting changes and additions.

Hymn No. 2. “All Creatures of Our God and King” we find these words. “Oh, praise the Father, praise the Son, And praise the Spirit, three in One!” This new addition to the hymnal comes from the pen of the Roman Catholic saint, Francis of Assisi, in the 12th Century, and reflects his trinitarian theology. It was Francis who founded the “Franciscan order”, and their role and influence in history is a strong one, ranging from the persecution of Christians with the Inquisition, through to producing many Catholic theologians and several Catholic popes.

Hymn No. 3, “God Himself Is With Us”, prays “Let my soul, like Mary, Be Thine earthly sanctuary.” This was another new addition from a Catholic source, but what are we to make of these words? Further the hymn is telling us to “bow before Thee, Know Thee and adore Thee.” The context is in regard to the “indwelling Spirit.” Should we bow and worship the Holy Spirit? Is this a concept that is Biblical?

Hymn No. 11, “The God of Abraham Praise” arranged with a Jewish melody, in verse 3 says; “The whole triumphant host Give thanks to God on high; ‘Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!’ They ever cry; Hail, Abraham’s God and mine!” Found as No. 76 in the old 1941 “Church Hymnal” with the same words, I doubt whether an Orthodox Jew would agree with this wording!

Hymn No. 27, “Rejoice, ye Pure in Heart!” This Hymn of Praise to God calls upon us to “Praise Him who reigns on high, The Lord whom we adore, The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, One God for ever more.” These words in the fifth verse have changed considerably from those in the 1941 Hymnal. Appearing as No. 17, the words were: “Then on, ye pure in heart, Rejoice, give thanks, and sing; Your glorious banner wave on high, The Cross of Christ your King.” There were originally 11 verses in the Hymn written by Anglican Edward Plumptre in 1865. Why did the Hymnal committee decide to change, and was it really necessary? What was wrong with the choice of verses in the 1941 “Church Hymnal”?

Hymn No. 30, “Holy God, We Praise Your Name”, is another new addition to the hymnal. In verse 3 it says; “Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, three we name You; While in essence only one, Undivided God we claim You; And adoring bend the knee, While we own the mystery.” Now that is an interesting one. It reminds you of the Mass, doesn’t it? What mystery is the writer talking about owning?

Hymn No. 34, “Wake the Song”, which appeared as No. 649 in the 1941 Hymnal, has these words which should be quite foreign to Adventists. “We will chant our Saviour’s glory”. The author, W.F. Sherwin, was a Baptist, and also a trinitarian. In the third verse we find adoration and praise to “holy Father,” “loving Saviour” and “Holy Spirit”.

Hymn No. 47, “God Who Made the Earth and Heaven”, we find those words again: “Blest three in One.” Although we are only in the “Evening Worship” section of the Hymnal, we are finding quite a lot of trinitarian hymns compared to the last Hymnal. This new addition to the Hymnal is written by an Anglican priest by the name of Reginald Heber, famous for his trinitarian Hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” together with William Mercer and Richard Whately, all trinitarians.

Hymn No. 53, “All Praise to Thee”, really should be called “All Praise to Three”, as it again contains trinitarian concepts in verse 4. Written by an Anglican Bishop, Thomas Ken, educated at Oxford, it again shows the traditional beliefs of the Church of England.

Hymn No. 70, “Praise Ye the Father”, the first hymn in the “Trinity” section of the current hymnal, is another which can be found in the old Church Hymnal as No. 9. One verse is written to the Father, one to the Son, and one to the Holy Spirit. The words are the same in both Hymnals, concluding with “Praise ye the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Praise the Eternal Three!”

Hymn No. 71, “Come, Thou Almighty King” we find another old trinitarian hymn. One of its many names is “Hymn to the Trinity”. The first three verses are almost prayers to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with the fourth verse, not published in the 1941 edition, containing the lines “To Thee, great One in Three, Eternal praises be,” a clearly Trinitarian hymn. Why it was not published complete in the 1941 edition, we are not told.

Hymn No. 72, “Creator of the Stars of Night”, from a 9th Century Latin text not found in any of our previous Hymnals, we find these words: “To God the Father, God the Son, And God the Spirit, Three in one”. These terms cannot be found in Scripture, nor in the writings of Ellen G. White or the Adventist Pioneers. Maybe the terms God the Son and God the Spirit are common amongst the writings of priests of the Roman Catholic Church, but they should be foreign terms to Seventh-day Adventists.

Hymn No. 73, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, is an old classic we all know. There is an interesting piece of history attached to this Hymn. The author, Anglican priest Reginald Heber, wrote “God in three persons, blessed Trinity!” as part of his original hymn in 1826, written specifically for ‘Trinity Sunday’ in the Anglican church calendar. Now for those readers who have a Church of England background, you may know that ‘Trinity Sunday’ is in memory of the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the famous church council where the Emperor Constantine attempted to bring unity and peace to his empire, using doctrine as the uniting factor. It was here that the Trinity doctrine was originally formulated in the battle between Arius and Athanasius. The tune to this version of “Holy, Holy, Holy” is “Nicaea”, also in memory of the Council of Nicea, written especially for Reginald Heber’s words by John B. Dykes. Now this hymn had appeared in the previous two Adventist hymnals, but the compilers had seen fit to change the words from the original trinitarian wording to something more acceptable to non-trinitarians. In “Christ in Song” and “The Church Hymnal” of 1941 we find three verses, and read these words at the close of the first verse, “God over all, Who rules eternity.” But today, in our current hymnal, we see the original text of four verses, with the words of Heber “God in three persons, blessed Trinity!” in the first and last. Why the change, after over 70 years of singing it with the non-trinitarian words? This hymn ends the “Trinity” section of the hymnal, but certainly it is not the end of trinitarian hymns in our hymnal.

Hymn No. 85, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” is another new addition to the Hymnal. Here we find a prayer to the Eternal Father, which gradually develops into a prayer to Christ, then the Holy Spirit, and finally “O Trinity of love and power, All travelers shield in danger’s hour; From rock and tempest, fire and foe, Protect them where-so-e’er they go;” Again the trinity doctrine seems to have found its way in.

Hymn No. 91, “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” is an interesting traditional Anglican Hymn. Found with only two verses as No. 77 in the 1941 Hymnal, there appear three verses in the current Hymnal. Not only does it contain the words “To God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, Three in One”, but it also sings praises to Mary, the mother of Jesus. “O higher than the cherubim, More glorious then the seraphim, Lead their praises, Alleluia! Thou bearer of the eternal Word, Most gracious, magnify the Lord.” The bearer of the eternal Word here is referring to Mary. There is another verse, which thankfully has been left out of both Hymnals. It contained such words as “Respond ye souls in endless rest, . . . Ye holy twelve, ye martyrs strong, All saints triumphant, raise the song, Alleluia!” Belief in the immortality of the soul comes out strongly here, asking that Mary and all the saints join the angels in praise to God. A good reason to leave that verse out!

Hymn No. 116, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”, where we are encouraged to “chant” with these words, “Christ, to Thee with God the Father And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee, Hymns and chants and high thanksgiving . . . ” Could it be there are Roman Catholic priests in Adventist churches, who would like to be reminded of their past “chants” in Roman monasteries?

Hymn No. 234, “Christ Is the World’s Light” is another new addition to the Hymnal. In the section entitled “Glory and Praise”, we are told to “Give God the glory, God and no other; give God the glory, Spirit, Son, and Father; . . .” 1st Corinthians 8:6 tells us that there “is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things.” (see also Galatians 1:1, 1st Timothy 2:5, Hebrews. 1:1.)

Hymn No. 235, “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation”, we read in verse 4: “Praise and honor to the Father, Praise and honor to the Son, Praise and honor to the Spirit, Ever three and ever one:” another reference to the trinity doctrine. This hymn comes from a Latin hymn of the sixth or seventh century. The verse quoted above is not found in the 1941 Church Hymnal, as the verses are differently arranged, and verse 4 is entirely different. In the 1941 edition it contains the words “God the One in Three adoring,” in the second verse. Interestingly enough, the original words of the Latin hymn contained these words as the last verse: “Laud and honour to the Father; Laud and honour to the Son; Laud and honour to the Spirit; Ever three and ever one: Con-substantial, Co-eternal, While unending ages run.” These words certainly reflect the Catholic theology of the Council of Nicea and its Nicean Creed!

Hymn No. 402. “By Christ Redeemed”, is also found as No. 475 in the old Hymnal. This Hymn contains some words which bring into question the Hymnal Committee’s original charge of checking each hymn for doctrinal soundness. Verse 2 states: “His broken body in our stead, Is here, in this memorial bread;” which is an odd reference to the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation as found in the rite of the Mass. These words were not in the original words written by George Rawson in 1857. A member of the Congregationalist church in Leeds, England, George Rawson originally wrote; “Is shown in this memorial bread.” A subtle, but significant difference. How and when the change crept into the two Adventist Hymnals, is unknown. Others, such as Hymn No. 405. “O God, Unseen, Yet Ever Near” is another communion hymn with questionable wording.

Hymn No. 403. “Let us Break Bread Together” is another addition to the Hymnal. This Negro Spiritual caused some considerable consternation when it was first noticed in the new Hymnal. Therefrain says: “When I fall on my knees, With my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me.” How this one sneaked by the committee is a mystery. Facing the rising sun is unquestionably an ancient pagan practice of sun-worshippers, and certainly is not practiced by any known Christians today. Certainly, its similarity to the vision of Ezekiel found in Ezekiel chapter 8:16 is sad, to say the least.

Hymn No. 544, “Jesus, Son of Blessed Mary,” Roman Catholic doctrine again comes quietly into our hymnal. Here we read, verses like “Jesus, Son of blessed Mary, Once on earth a little child,” and “Cheerful, trusting, safe, protected By the blessed Trinity.” I was not aware that singing praises to “blessed Mary” or the “blessed Trinity” were things Seventh-day Adventists held in common with other Christian bodies, but, alas, maybe the Church Hymnal Committee have a different view than I do. For as the Introduction of the current Hymnal says, “New hymns were drawn from many sources. Hymnals old and new provided texts and tunes of enduring value from other churches. Sometimes it was necessary to alter the text of these hymns to eliminate theological aberrations or awkward, jarring expressions.” – Introduction, p.6-7. The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal. Altered texts we have seen, and theological aberrations abound!

Changing times. Change can be good for any movement or Church, and can lead to a deeper understanding of spiritual things. But, it is a fundamental spiritual law that new truths do not contradict old and existing truths. Truth is a fascinating phenomena. Truth, or Light, for the final generation, is a continuation of the light from Christ which He gave to the Apostolic Church, and was in turn handed down to the Church in the Wilderness. Adventism has an inheritance which cannot be found in any other religious movement today, and when change occurs it is needful that all study and understand the change, and test its truthfulness and integrity. As the Bible is our source of authority, we can compare any new doctrine that comes into the Church with it, and know whether they are right or wrong.

We also need to ask ourselves if the Adventist Movement has progressed forward in the last one hundred years. How do we gauge its progress? Do we look at the number of institutions, the number of Churches, the number of believers, or do we look at the truths we now hold and compare them to the original?

The Pioneers of early Adventism stood up against doctrinal error and spoke out against falsehood. But as the Pioneers died off, changes gradually began to occur, and, as time went on, less and less members knew what the original Fundamentals were of the Great Second Advent Movement. Someone once said that to “search for the truth is the noblest occupation of man; its publication is a duty.”2. When we see error entering the Church, we need to question and ascertain what it is and where it comes from. Comparing Scripture with Scripture, and studying out the truth for ourselves, led by the Spirit, is our only safeguard. The Road to Rome In The Record, (South Pacific Division church newsletter) of March 4, 2000 p.3, we read: Catholics: SDAs not a sect “The Seventh-day Adventist Church cannot be treated either as a ‘new religious movement’ or a sect,” declares a joint statement from the Roman Catholic and Seventh- day Adventist Churches in Poland. Recognising each other’s autonomy and independence, the document was issued following 15 years of dialogue aimed at better understanding the teachings and practice of both churches. –ANN.

Digging a little deeper, we find 15 years of talking obviously found more common points then most would think of. “During the years of the exchange, we discovered many common points but also differences in our teachings. The Catholic Church recognises in this document our belief, which is focused on the character of Christ and in particular our holding on the doctrine of the Trinity. On the other hand, in the last few years we have seen in the Catholic Church an openness towards the Bible.” – Professor Zachariasz Lyko, Polish SDA Public Relation Department. Much more could be said about the ecumenicalism mindset coming into Seventh-day Adventism. Suffice to say, tradition and unbiblical doctrine are the mainstays of Roman Catholicism. As Adventists we should be working for the conversion of Roman Catholics to Christ, not holding Ecumenical discussions with them, finding common ground when they do not even believe in the Word of God, or that Jesus Christ is the Divine Son of God. We have nothing in common with Roman Catholicism, and below are some of their traditions, teachings and actions which have no foundation in Scripture.

(1) Prayers for the Dead (2) The use of the sign of the cross

(3) Sunday Worship

(4) Veneration of Angels and dead saints

(5) The Mass introduced as a false sacrifice

(6) Worship of Mary and the use of the term “Mother of God”

(7) Doctrine of Purgatory (established by Gregory the Great)

(8) Prayers to Mary

(9) Worship in the Latin language

(10) Kissing of the Pope’s feet and feet of statues

(11) Temporal Power of the Popes

(12) Worship of the Cross and images authorized (Idolatry)

(13) Holy Water blessed by the priest and used

(14) Canonization of dead saints (begun by Pope John XV)

(15) The use of the Rosary

(16) Celibacy of the Priesthood

(17) The doctrine of the Trinity

(18) Michael is not the pre-incarnate Christ and therefore not the Son of God

(19) The Inquisition: Persecution, force and killing of “heretics” who differed from the Roman Catholic church and her teachings. (20) Infant Baptism (21) Confession to a Father Confessor (Priest) at least once a year

(22) The Doctrine of Transubstantiation decreed by Pope Innocent III

(23) Adoration of the Wafer (termed Host) (others call it the “Jesus Cookie”)

(24) Doctrine of the Seven Sacraments

(25) Tradition is of equal authority with the Bible (The Council of Trent)

(26) Justification by works and not by Faith in God alone.

(27) Apocryphal books added to the Bible to support false doctrine, negating the Scriptural call not to add to or take away from the Scriptures.

(28) The Creed of Pope Pius IV instituted as the official creed instead of the Bible.

(29) Immaculate Conception of Mary.

(30) The Pope declared himself infallible in matters of doctrine

(31) The Assumption of the Virgin Mary.


Today things are not a lot different then in centuries passed. Ecumenicalism, or the putting aside of differences between religions is the flavour of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Different religions now pretend that their differences are minimal, and seek to return to the fold of Rome. One medium for change and ecumenicalism is the World Council of Churches. Formed on the eve of World War II. The World Council of Churches grew from Church leaders, missionaries, and various denominational administrators searching for unity within organised religion.

“The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.” (Constitution: World Council of Churches, quoted in So Much in Common, p.40)

The doctrine of the Trinity is inseparably connected with the Roman Catholic church and also the World Council of Churches. In fact, if it were not for the councils and creeds of Roman Catholicism there would be no formal Trinitarian teaching as we know it today. How important is this doctrine to the Roman Catholic Church?

In the book “The Teaching of the Catholic Church” we are told: “Catholic doctrine is not a series of disjointed statements. It is an organic body of religious truth, in which one dogma cannot rightly be understood save in its relation to the others, a part cannot be denied without rejecting the whole.” – The Teaching of the Catholic Church, edited by Canon George D. Smith, D.D., Ph.D. 1963 Ed. p38. In regard to the Catholic understanding of the Trinity Doctrine, we read: “The mystery of the Trinity is the central doctrine of Catholic faith. Upon it are based all the other teachings of the Church. Upon it are based all the other teachings of the Church. . . . . The Church studied this mystery with great care and, after four centuries of clarifications, decided to state the doctrine in this way: In the unity of the Godhead there are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: ‘The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three gods but one God.’” – Handbook for Today’sCatholic, 1977. pg. 12. “The trinity of God is defined by the Church as the belief that in God are three persons who subsist in one nature. The belief as so defined was reached only in the 4th and 5th centuries AD and hence is not explicitly and formally a biblical belief. The trinity of persons within the unity of nature is defined in terms of ‘person’ and ‘nature’ which are Greek philosophical terms; actually the terms do not appear in the Bible. The trinitarian definitions arose as the result of long controversies in which these terms and others such as‘essence’ and ‘substance’ were erroneously applied to God by some theologians.”– Dictionary of the Bible, by John L. McKenzie, S.J. p.899. (Roman Catholic author) The mystery of the trinity is defined by the Roman Catholic church, and all churches who join the World Council of Churches must abide by the WCC constitution. From the council of Nicea in 325 A.D. to the council of Constantinople in A.D. 381 the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity evolved and became established into “the foundation of her whole dogmatic system,” upon which “all other teachings of the Church” are based. Those conscientious Christians who could not accept the Trinity doctrine were branded as “heretics” and punished severely by torture and even death.

The following two conclusions are very simple: If the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity is Biblically correct; It is the duty of all professed Christians not only to believe, but also to acknowledge and honor the Catholic church for originating this doctrinal foundation to all other Biblical truths. Since all of the other doctrines of the Roman Church are based on the trinity concept as a harmonious whole, then why not return to her theological reasoning? It is strange to hear of Seventh-day Adventists taking issue with Rome over her Sunday sacredness, and then upholding their belief in her foundation doctrine of the Trinity.

Yet, if the doctrine of the trinity is based on human speculation and tradition rather than the Bible; it must be recognized as a foundational error that distorts and confuses our basic understanding about God, His Sacrifice in giving us His Son, and His plan of Salvation.

What shall we follow, truth or tradition? Whom will we serve? Gradual change is occurring everywhere. Each “surface ripple” in the arena of the great controversy is conditioning, molding, uniting or dividing – ripples in the sea of change, small waves leading to the great “tidal wave”. These subtle movements and gentle changes are preparing people to accept the ultimate goal of the Roman Catholic Church, the acceptance of the “superchurch”, a religio-political machine that dictates the lives of the masses, controlling the decisions of the world. As Christians we can see that the writing is appearing on the wall, and prophecy is being fulfilled. Are we ready for what is about to overtake us as an overwhelming surprise?

Blair Andrew. PO Box97, Eagle Heights, Qld. 4271. Australia.



  1. G. White, Life Sketches, p.94.

Anne Louise Germaine de Stael, French author.



The Holy Bible, KJV. Authorized Version.

The Church Hymnal. 1941. Signs Publishing Co.

The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal. 1985. R & H.

Christ in Song. F.E. Belden. 1908. R & H.

Singing with Understanding. E.E. White. 1968. Signs Publishing Co.

Truth Triumphant, by B.G. Wilkinson, 1944.

The Teaching of the Catholic Church, edited by Canon George D. Smith, D.D., Ph.D. 1963.

Dictionary of the Bible, by John L. McKenzie, S.

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