Over at the blog of Seminarist Josh Osbun, who is presently in his year of vicarage, he has begun a survey of the hymns of Stephen Starke. I offered a comment there, and I'd like to share it here as well, for what it is worth. I recommend his blog to you, and along with his post on the Starke hymn, "All the Earth with Joy is Sounding," I offer for your reasoned consideration my word of criticism of this hymn.
I appreciate the discussion you are having here on hymnody. You suggested a Starke Appreciation Month. The Synod could almost have a Starke Year of Appreciation, with all the hymns that made the cut in the LSB.
As you suspect, there are some who fail to be fans of the hymns of Stephen Starke. As one such Lutheran, allow me to say a respectful word from that particular perspective. A few quick points:
1. You state of those critical of Starke, “I'm not convinced that these people have actually taken the time to read through all of them.” While in my opinion there is an inordinate quantity of Starke hymns in the new hymnal, nevertheless, I must say it does not take very long to read them. When the LSB fell into my hands, as with every other serious minded theological thinker of our synod, I took it upon myself to acquaint myself with it. It is not as enjoyable as reading a Tolstoy novel, but on the bright side, it doesn’t take as long either. And so, indeed, I can testify that it is possible to have read these hymns, and yet remain unconvinced of their genius, and that they ought, for example, to outnumber the hymns of the Blessed Reformer in the hymnal.
2. Those of us who are not fans of Starke’s hymns are not personal in our criticism. There is nothing personal going on here. I am sure that the Reverend Stephen Starke is a good man, a great guy, a fine pastor, and indeed probably even a man worthy to whom to introduce your mother.
3. Not only is my criticism not personal, it is also not very bitter. In other words, I do not hate, or utterly condemn these hymns. I merely think they are inferior to the classic hymns of our Lutheran tradition, and unworthy of the public worship of the Church.
4. A true appreciation of how badly these hymns tend to compare with the great hymns of the Church can only happen when you not merely read them, but in fact hear them sung. A discussion on music is really best set aside for another time, though.
5. You highlight in this post the Starke hymn 462 in LSB, “All the Earth with Joy is Sounding.” I would draw your attention to a concern I have about the third stanza. Jesus, this stanza teaches, “shared in our humanity.” Theologically it would be far better to say that Jesus “shares in our humanity.” Praise be to Christ forever, that He never stopped being a man, and never will. I fear that Starke has inadvertently slipped into a confusion, in this stanza, between Christ’s humiliation and his humanity, for he implies, or at least it can be all too easily inferred, that the incarnation is essentially part of the humiliation when he in the next part of the stanza contrasts it with the line “Crowned with radiant exaltation.” As I say, it is no doubt inadvertent, but he ought to have thought through this stanza much more thoroughly. Nor did anyone along the line catch it, for it seems you don’t stop a Starke hymn from getting ahead in today’s Missouri Synod.
So indeed, I find your last comment, “It is impossible to sing this hymn quietly, unless you just don't believe the words and the message,” to be a bit incredulous. I look forward to any thoughts on how I might be out of line.