William Brackney in his Genetic History of Baptist Thought (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2004) believes that hymns were influential in Baptist theology. He says, “Perhaps no other source of Baptist thought better reflects the importance of religious experience than what Baptists sing. . . . What Baptists sing reveals an extension of their theological identity in a decidedly egalitarian form” (65).

He notes the importance of revivalism come the mid-nineteenth century. Songs such as “For You I am Praying” had a great influence on theology of Baptist preachers. He continues,

Gradually certain techniques became formulaic in evangelistic proclamation. The ‘hymn of invitation’ was foremost among these. The purpose of invitation hymns was to offer seekers–perhaps moved to conviction during a sermon–the opportunity to declare newfound faith in Christ publicly. The hymns of invitation that grew out of the revivalist tradition in the early twentieth century among North American Baptists became the official way of congregational evangelism. Entire sections of Baptist hymnals were devoted to invitation hymns. Among mainstream Baptists, these hymns began to reflect the human element in salvation and not-so-subtle shifts in theology became commonplace (Ibid., 94).

He gives examples of this in the songs: Doane’s “Pass me not, O gentle Savior,” Bliss’ “Almost Persuaded,” and Bradbury’s “Just As I Am, Without One Plea.” He concludes,

Theologically, hymns of invitation have had a pronounced impact upon the popular theology of many North American Baptists who have adopted an ecclesiology that the church is an evangelizing community and that its primary, if not exclusive, task is offering the gospel and person of Christ to non-believers (Ibid., 97).

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