"At least since the time when Paul and Silas sang from the depths of the Philippian jail, praising God with hymns has been central to the Christian faith. Isn't it odd, then, that so little careful study has been devoted to popular hymnody? True religion, Jonathan Edwards once said, can never be doctrinal knowledge only, 'without affection.' Vital faith is rather 'a ferment, a vigorous engagedness of the heart.' Few human acts can so powerfully fuse heads, hearts, hands, and voices like singing, and these authors show how multidimensional vocal praise has been. For American Protestants, hymn singing is nearly sacramental; it also can be political. Hymn singing expresses theological ideas, challenges common wisdom, defines and enacts community, and roots the gospel in culture. Wonderful Words of Life models the kind of scholarship we need for every time and place where Christianity has gone, to understand the powerful effects of ordinary people singing praise to God. "
"Collections of scholarly essays typically gather dust, their spines hardly cracked, their pages pristine and unread. By contrast, copies of this superb book will soon be as well-thumbed as your grandmother's hymnal. If you want to understand the evangelical stream of what gets called 'religion in practice' these days, there's no better place to start. "
"This stimulating collection provides much-needed coverage and enrichment in a neglected sector of American religious experience. The thoughtful and thought-provoking essays do not 'their own appointed limits keep,' but venture in illuminating ways beyond the American scene and beyond evangelical Protestantism. Teachers of cultural and religious history will be indebted to these authors."
Journal of the American Academy of Religion
"A welcome addition to our knowledge and evaluation of important strands of American hymnody."