Timothy George explains why the Presbyterian Church USA has recently rejected the hymn “In Christ Alone” from its new hymnal:
Recently, the wrath of God became a point of controversy in the decision of the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song to exclude from its new hymnal the much-loved song “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. The Committee wanted to include this song because it is being sung in many churches, Presbyterian and otherwise, but they could not abide this line from the third stanza: “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied.” For this they wanted to substitute: “…as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.” The authors of the hymn insisted on the original wording, and the Committee voted nine to six that “In Christ Alone” would not be among the eight hundred or so items in their new hymnal.
There is no surprise in this news. Although not all PCUSA churches are theologically liberal, the denomination by and large is. Liberalism and wrath go together like oil and water; they don’t mix. And historically speaking, one of them eventually has to go. When wrath goes, so does the central meaning of the atonement of Christ—penal substitution. At the end of the day, the cross itself is the stumbling block, and that is why the PCUSA cannot abide this hymn.
You can read the rest of George’s article here. You can listen to the hymn and read the lyrics below.
UPDATE: On Sunday, I preached a sermon in my church about hell and the wrath of God. In this message, I make the case that every true Christian will one day lift up his voice in celebration when God bares His arm in judgment against His enemies. In other words, your ability to rejoice in God’s wrath will one day define whether or not you know Him at all. You can download the message here or listen to it below:[audio:http://www.kenwoodbaptistchurch.com/filerequest/1559.mp3]
What we believe about God and about His Son Jesus is the most important thing about us. And yet countless people recoil at the God of the Bible and turn instead to a god of their own imagination. Any formulation of deity that excludes God’s justice and wrath against sin is not the God of the Bible.
A wrathless god shorn of His justice is no god worth worshipping. Nor is he a god able to convict and save sinners. When wrath is taken away, so is the gospel. And that is why this discussion matters.
In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.
“In Christ Alone”
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music
The one good thing to hear from this is that Getty and Townend stood their ground in terms of the lyrics. It could have been so easy to be accomodating.
D. Clyde Grammon Jr.
And, acommodation with this mindset is not compromise anyway–rather, a giant vacuum, that swallows up all truth, prudence, wisdom and understanding. The cross IS, as you say, both the stumbling-block and the very ESSENCE of the gospel. It isn’t that they don’t get it–it is that they cannot. The unspiritual mind cannot comprehend the things of God’s Spirit, but finds them odious. There is no meaning, no redemption, no HOPE apart from the wrath of God that was satisfied at the cross. (Actually, I’m surprised that “In Christ ALONE…” was not their sticking point), to be frank.
Eventually “in Christ alone” will be their sticking point. Things are headed that way . . . fast!
Yes; me, too. I know of groups within Christendom, dare I even say, Christianity, which will not abide “the five solas”, including Solus Christus. Jerry Chase
I agree with Michael. Glad to see them stand. It is unfortunately the loss of the leaders and congregants of the PCUSA as this is a theologically rich, melodically beautiful song.
Mark Tubbs (@DiscerningReadr)
Can PCUSA churches not sing the song even though it may be missing in their hymnals? They could try using, say, overhead projectors or something…
Mark, u are correct. Evangelical PCUSA churches can still use this song, & in fact, many do NOT use the official PCUSA hymnal. Each church is free to choose their own music.
We researched and bought the hymnal we wanted.
Sounds like the committee stood their ground on their theology. That’s usually called being “conservative”.
Taking a stand against solid theology is not conservative. We have been saved from the wrath of God by Jesus’ sacrifice.
Dr. Andrew J. Hammack Th.D
Thank you Randy! Ask Believers what are we saved from and 95% or so will respond along the lines of hell, Satan, sin, etc. while all that is true ultimately we are being saved from God Himself; specifically His wrath. Oh the Wonder of the gospel that very God would die on the cross to save us from Himself!
Wrong. Liberals stand their ground on issues from gay rights to abortion, that does not make them conservative. And standing against the phrasing shows just how far away from the Gospel the PCUSA has fallen. If had actually read the entire article you would know why NOT preaching about God’s wrath is condemning people to eternal damnation.
texerwinPrescott Jay Erwin
Of course, the committee, according to its own explanation didn’t stand its ground on theology, but upon its ideology of tolerance — just not tolerance of God’s wrath.
Thank God that someone has the guts to stand up once again to the left wing, limp wristed, sissy theology that saturates mainstream “Christianity” these days.
Mary Gray Moser
Thank God for Getty and Townsend!
Just want to chime in here. There are some modern covers of this great song. Unfortunately the two most popular versions by artists Adam Young (aka Owl City) and Kristian Stanfill (of Passion 2013) leave out the stanzas with “the wrath of God was satisfied.” But the good news is that artists such as Bethany Dillon & Matt Hammitt plus Adrienne Liesching & Geoff Moore have versions including all of the stanzas.
interesting fact.i did not know that owl city didnt use all the stanzas.i better pay closer attention.
Heaven help us.
It feels like the more liberal denominations are moving toward a more full embrace of New Age principles. New Age-ism, without a sense of guilt, shame, or judgment certainly resonates with pop culture. What that foretells for the broader church I’m unsure of…Hopefully nothing.
I understand that this is a very, very conservative site. But if one were to assert, as is asserted here, that “[l]iberalism and wrath go together like oil and water; they don’t mix,” couldn’t the same argument be made for “conservatism and grace”? Clearly many liberals feel this way about conservative doctrine; even G.W. Bush had to reaffirm compassionate conservatism in his original presidential campaign, to fend off the attacks that the two words placed together are an oxymoron.
Couldn’t this just offer another example of live and let live? I respect that the authors of the hymn held their ground; I hate it when churches whitewash the words to “Amazing Grace” by replacing “wretch” with something else. But PC(USA) is just as entitled to pick and choose its hymnody as any other church…and they all do. I’d still take the Presbyterian hymns over most of the “contemporary” rock-band pap, whose lyrics are usually too banal to reference wrath or atonement because those ideas are just over-complicated and troubling. Let PC(USA) split hairs over a hymn’s text if that’s what the denomination thinks is the most important; other denominations will surely pick up the slack, and “In Christ Alone” is unlikely to fall into obscurity.
Hi, Lauren. I would agree with your Live and Let live sentiment to this extent: its doubtful anyone’s going to Hell because b/cs they sought to re-write a single sentence in a single song. So, yeah, we should all keep this in perspective.
I would also agree with your sentiment abt conservatism and grace. Humans throughout history have often twisted the BIble to match their own personal or political views. But the Bible is an inherently balanced Book. So an excessive focus on Love by one group cannot remedy an excessive focus on Judgment by another group. Instead, we as individuals must seek to be balanced and reflect in our behavior the breadth of Biblical wisdom. The Word, as is The Trinity, is irreducible.
So, its in that light that I wonder if this is another step toward redefining scripture around New Age principles. That would be every bit as wrong as those who re-interpret 2 Thess 3:10 to support Ayn Randian-ism.
In his 1937 book The Kingdom of God in America, H. Richard Niebuhr described the liberal version of the Gospel as being about how “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” It’s not really about New Age stuff, it’s the same old liberal Modernism.
Surprised they didn’t object to the “Christ alone” part frankly.
Mark Tubbs (@DiscerningReadr)
Alas, but touché.
This comment wins!
Well, back when I was an elder in the PCUSA, some pastors tried to find a point that could unify the Baltimroe Presbytery because it had been going through a lot of heated discussion over same-sex ordination. They figured, “Hey, let’s just propose a declaration affirming something we all hold as common ground, somethign as basic as the deity of Christ.” So they wrote it and…it was designated by the Presbytery for a special procedure they had set aside for “hot topic” items, we all broke up into small groups to discuss it, then had to come back and report on what our small group discussions had been about, and in the end, you guessed it, they couldn’t even affirm the deity of Christ.
J. Neil Barham
I’m surprised they read far enough into this hymn to have a problem with the wrath of God. The very first line would disqualify it in the PCUSA. Such EXCLUSIVITY! EGAD! We can’t sing things like that? Christ ALONE? Seriously? Not in the PCUSA. Not for decades. That denomination left the pale of Christianity a long time ago. We shouldn’t expect a non-Christian “church” to sing Christian hymns! I’m just glad they were honest enough to realize that the teachings of the PCUSA are utterly out of touch with the magnificent theology this hymn. How are the mighty fallen! How is the gold become dim!
Bear in mind, there are many, many Americans who believe that, fundamentally, the Southern Baptist Convention has never really been Christian, since it owes its origins on support for an evil institution–a support that perpetuated racial other-ness even long, LONG after the evil institution had been abolished. I don’t agree with this interpretation of the SBC. I’m just being a devil’s advocate here, since I’m reading a great deal of snarkiness about another denomination’s theological interpretation. Just food for thought as this blog topic seems purely devoted to judging other Christians and reveling in the superiority of “our ‘right’ interpretation”.
Good points, Lauren.
There are no denominations to God. There is only one Church. We need to stop picking on the PCUSA. We – in groups and individually – disagree about stuff, sometimes important stuff, but that doesn’t stop us from being family with one Father. They will know us by our love, right?
Lauren and Hannah,
If this were over a third or fourth order doctrine (which you naively believe) then your comments would apply. However, the PCUSA is splitting away from Christianity by rejecting a first order doctrine. The penal substitution is a cardinal doctrine of Christianity. Check the scriptures. Or, if the Bible is not sufficient for you, check the confessional documents that have been written over the course of history. This move is not a denominational difference, but a division from the gospel.
Mary Gray Moser
I think what you have said here about PCUSA needs to be said. Now, PCA, my church, is rather a denominationally different church, and we have no problem relating with other gospel-oriented denominations.
Penal substitution is one of several atonement theories and wasn’t developed fully until the reformation. It’s hard to see how it could be cardinal Christian doctrine if it didn’t exist for the first 1500 years of the church.
Very interesting! I have a Christian friend who doesn’t hold to the substitutionary atonement idea. I haven’t heard it explained yet but I’ve been meaning to look into it. I’ll have to look at what other interpretations are out there too.
I’ve been currently doing a study of the different views/interpretations of hell, mostly via a great ongoing ask/response series at Rachel Held Evan’s blog, and it’s been really fascinating!
Saying it wasn’t developed fully until later and then saying it didn’t exist for 1500 years is a nice write-off of all the great insights Ambrose, Tertullian, and especially Anselm, Aquinas, and Scotus made.
It didn’t exist as doctrine for any church until then.
texerwinPrescott Jay Erwin
Unfortunately, Thomas, that’s a bit like arguing that there was no formal articulation of The Trinity prior to the 4th century C.E., so it’s hard to see how it could be a cardinal doctrine.” But, of course, the context of this article is the Presbyterian Church (USA), a denomination of the Reformed Church movement, which didn’t exist for the first 1500 years of the Church. What does THAT say? Still, with that context in mind, it is generally understood that the doctrine (not “theory”) of penal substitution found its classical expression in the work of Jehan Cauvin (Jean/John Calvin), the namesake for these Calvinist churches; how odd that it should fall into such disfavor in a Calvinist denomination.
There are no real denominations BECAUSE there is no Universal Invisible or Visible Church (assembly). Every congregation is a complete body of Christ in itself, a visible and LOCAL assembly that every member of the only real Universal Visible ENTITY the FAMILY of GOD may find shelter in wherever they may sojourn upon this earth. The only way for such assemblies to be of ONE MIND is to focus on the Literal Interpretation of the Bible (Literal in that meaning is found according to the common literary devices found in all communication…not some spiritualized la la la that “spiritual” folk pretend) according to the somewhat underdeveloped interpretive schema, for the want of a better theological title, law of two or three witnesses (or multiple witnesses) that establishes a matter which is had in two corollaries which I will paraphrase from the several instances Moses, Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John uses it:
Corollary One – In the mouth of one witness shall no man be put to death.
Corollary Two – In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall a man worthy of a capital crime be put to death (or establish a matter).
In order to have a denomination, it appears that a mistranslation of the Greek of 2 Peter 1:20 was made in the Latin Vulgate that substituted a case for one that both Latin and Greek languages had common which thought was mirrored in the Early English Translations even found in the Geneva Bible, which means I do not hold in the parachute theory for the Geneva Bible as I do not for the King James Version.
The correct translation of the Greek of this verse WILL allow a private interpretation but ONLY on consideration of the law in reference to Corollary One above:
“This first knowing that every prophecy of scripture is NOT OF ITS OWN INTERPRETATION.”
And the following verse 22 of the above actually, when analyzed gives Peter’s concise rendering including the influence of the Holy Spirit of both corollaries, the first being a negative statement concerning One witness “MAN” and the second being a positive statement concerning Multiple witnesses “MEN,” This is Peter’s commentary on Paul’s writing, generally referencing Paul’s 1 Corinthians 12-14 concerning the law of two or three witnesses, the ellipsis of 1 Corinthians 13:10 demanding a singular negative substantive being resolved by the far context of 1 Corinthians 1:6 where TO MARTURION (Greek for THE TESTIMONY) is found and again in 1 Corinthians 2:1. Do not be put off by a partial replaced by a complete because that is not the case, for the partial rendered IN PART or EK MEROUS in the Greek refers not to a simple partial but specifies a single gifted member of the early church giving Holy Spirit inspired testimony whether in prophecy, tongue, or eyewitness testimony or sometimes called generally KNOWLEDGE or GNOSIS as is found in 1 Cor. 12:27 where MEMBERS IN PARTICULAR (EK MEROUS) is balanced by 1 Cor. 14:27 BY COURSE (ANA MEROS – meros another form of merous) in reference to TWO OR THREE witnesses concerning tongues followed by two or three witnesses concerning prophets. The 1 Cor. 13:10 prophecy was dealing with only PROPHECY and paired up with the Holy Spirit enhanced memory of eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ in those things He said and did fulfilled in John the Apostle the LAST eyewitness (Gospel of John and Epistles) and the LAST prophecy (Revelation). The marvelous sign gifts led up by TONGUES including special miracles and special healings by the hands of men stopped at 70 AD with the destruction of the temple according to Micah 7:15 and John 5:20. We have only the providences of God today according to His will whether or not He answers our cravings for healing of loved ones or the establishing His will on Earth whether or not we even understand what it might be. Agape or unconditional love would be the only credibility giving gift left us among those specifically tied to the church when the last Apostle dies, the other gifts stopped and done away with will appear AFTER the church age (there is no CHURCH bride to continue) during the last seven years before the main resurrection of the righteous and the millennium (no dying of the righteous in that thousand years). Paul was looking forward to the cessation of living witnesses when the last testimony of the mind of God of what He wants us to know NOW is made and we can grow up in love in the assembly and be mature NOW so that we should not be blown about by every wind of doctrine because false prophets are they beyond John the Apostle and we can take scriptures before us and two or three spirits or testimonies or knowledge (gnosis) of scripture when considered even by ONE PRIVATE PERSON or judge can produce DOCTRINE, or that special knowledge Paul coins as EPIGNOSIS (1 Cor.13:12), or confirmed doctrine.
Donna Farris, What evil institution are you talking about. SBC was founded on the doctrine of gospel. Martin Luthor a catholic priest who was helping in the writing of the bible from it’s original form. Discovered that catholic priest had no right to keep the truth of the gospel for themselves only to read. Every man and woman has the right to read and understand the word of God for himself. We believe that every word in the bible is true and was written by God himself. Men only wrote what God inspired them to write. SBC is the largest and fastest growing religious group in the world. If our teachings are so wrong then Why is God blessing us so abundantly???????????
Donna, the institution to which I was referring (as most people here no doubt know) was slavery. SBC was founded as southerners disagreed with American Baptists on the Biblical permission to own slaves–if that’s the “doctrine of Gospel” you’re referring to. Furthermore, I’ll admit I’m uncertain about the SBC numbers outside of the US, but your message is the first I’ve ever heard that the SBC is “the fastest growing religious group in the world.” Baha’i is the fastest growing religious group according to every metric I have seen in recent years. And domestically, LDS (Mormon Church) is growing faster than Evangelicalism. At least in the US, membership to the SBC flatlined about a decade ago and his been in decline since then, though it’s decline is of course nowhere near as severe (yet) as the PC(USA).
Just a slight tweak here, Lauren. The SBC was founded in 1845 mostly by Baptists in the South who disagreed with the preponderance of Baptists in the North over whether or not The General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions (The Triennial Convention), which included Baptists from all over the U.S., should appoint missionaries from slaveholding states. It was less support for slavery than support for the rights of missionaries from slaveholding states to be appointed — although it must be pointed out that it was about slaveholding states in the South, not in general, as Delaware was the last state to abolish slavery, but never met with the same difficulty as those in the South. The Triennial Convention represented the cooperation of all flavors of Baptists before the split (except, of course, for Separate Baptists) for the purpose of missions. Many of these churches gradually gave up their designations — ours was a Regular Baptist church at that time — and simply adopted the regional designation depending upon their proximity to the Mason-Dixon Line. Baptists in the North didn’t adopt the name “Northern Baptist Convention” until 1907 and maintained that designation until changing it to the American Baptist Convention in 1950 and then to the American Baptist Churches (USA) in 1972. Southern Baptists didn’t disagree with American Baptists, rather Baptists in the South disagreed with Baptists in the North.
And there are no statistics for Southern Baptist churches outside the U.S. because there are none. Southern Baptist missionaries and church planters on the international field do not establish Southern Baptist churches, but rather teach and train indigenous peoples who develop their own indigenous churches — and associations and conventions, if they choose.
AMEN to your last statement and we wonder why so many have rejected any sense of truth to be found in American Christian churches. We are our own worst enemy because our words and actions are often so opposed to the example Jesus set.
Some of the comments here are pretty mean-spirited. I agree the hymnal committee over-thought this one, but is it really that big a deal? Wrath is not the central message of the cross; love is. Also, punishment and wrath are not the same. I punish my children, but not because of wrath.
Very true, Eric.
I keep trying to care about this issue, but I just can’t get myself to. I think what they changed it to is perfectly fine and true as well. God’s love was magnified at the cross. Sounds good to me. Then again, I grew up singing it the other way and that sounds fine to me too. I understand what it means theologically and I am on board with that.
Anyway, I think what’s actually happening here is a reflection of an ongoing linguistic change in the meaning of and interpretation of the word “wrath”. How people use it and understand it is changing. If we’re still using words like they were used when they were penned in the original KJV, and, worse yet – if we expect people to interpret those words the same way – we’re going to run into a few problems. Like “Faith, Hope, and Love” used to be written “Faith, Hope, and Charity”. Charity changed meaning over time and nobody uses it that way any more. Sometimes we have to update and revise.
It may surprise you to learn that God killed His Son. In the gospel of Isaiah it is noteworthy that it pleased God to crush His Son. There is no reason to change this in hymnody unless those changing it can’t agree with it. This is a big deal.
Did I say I had a problem with how it originally was? I said I see no problem in changing it because what they changed it to is true also. I also understand the theological reasons for the original wording and am on board with that. God’s love *is* magnified at the cross. His wrath against sin and evil is also satisfied. Both versions are equally true. I can find nothing offensive about “At the cross the love of God was magnified.” It’s true, it’s sound, and if it had been originally written this way, nobody would’ve batted an eye.
Obviously the PCUSA had some sort of problem with the original wording with the use of the word “wrath”, but that word is a sticky issue these days possibly, as I proposed, because of a change in linguistic understanding of the word. It’s not a new issue. The Church has encountered this issue in many words over the centuries. I gave an example with “Charity”. It’s meaning has changed so we use “Love” instead.
I hesitate to jump to conclusions about why the PCUSA made this change. Besides, it was obviously a committee of, what, 9 people? That’s hardly representative of all the members of the denomination.
And no, it’s not a big deal. It doesn’t change doctrine, belief, or anything, just changes focus to another equally true perspective of the same situation. They’re not rewriting the Bible. They’re not telling lies. They’re not suddenly all damned to hell. I can understand their wanting to be sensitive to the possible negative overtones of the word “wrath” even if I think they’re overthinking it.
I do concede it’s a big deal for only one reason: they made a mountain out of a mole hill. So are many people on this comment board, acting like this is the end of the world. People are starving down the street, come on people, let’s try to focus.
But what truly matters is what the PCUSA is doing outside their church buildings in their communities and the world for the Kingdom. Are they the hands and feet of Jesus in their world? Do they love others? Where are their hearts focused? Only God can judge that. And that’s what matters to Him most.
Kristi Van Dam
It is ironic, Hannah. You did not mention one thing about hell and the fact that there are those who will spend eternity there. Unbelievers that come into churches need to understand what Jesus’ sacrifice means. Eliminating wrath from Christian songs (and attempting to do so with entire denominations in this case) means not telling the whole story. Bearing false witness – even in the tiniest or seemingly unimportant way – is sin and that sin, even as much as we may want to diminish it is the very wrath Christ took in our place so that we could believe and not have to be under that wrath. Are we the hands and feet of Jesus and loving others when we attempt to spare them the reality of God’s wrath against sin, the ungodly, and the unrepentant? No. That is exactly when our hearts are not focused and you can rest assured, God will judge that. Telling the truth – the whole story – even that which is uncomfortable and mistaken as judgment – is what matters to God most.
When did I ever say that I am denying God’s wrath or judgment? Calm down.
Kristi Van Dam
Often times people think with the mentality of I’ll give a man a fish today and think I’ve done some good because then he will have eaten. But they never think about the fact that teaching a man to fish and allowing him to eat for a lifetime means giving him the whole story. If we feed one in need physically and never give him food for the soul – we have done nothing. If we merely tell a person – God loves you or God bless you – we have done greater harm for that person than if we were to tell them (often mistaken as “judging”) that God hates their sin and was gracious enough to send His Son to die so that they can be removed from His wrath. Yes, we should tell them God forgives and that He loves them, but we should tell them what is keeping them from that forgiveness and love and what it means if they do not repent. Satisfaction for a day or peace for eternity? We are cheating others if we merely meet only their physical needs or tickle them with love. The idea is not to make people feel good, the idea is to get them to understand the seriousness of sin that keeps them apart from God and keeps them under His wrath. This is love and kindness. As Christians we will be judged with what we did with the truth after we received His grace and forgiveness. My confronting you is because others were kind enough to do the same in my own life. I do not want you or any other brother or sister in Christ to lose rewards. The problem is that so many are “calm” about the future of God’s wrath. Jesus will return soon for His Church – will you propose to tell Him to calm down?
When confronted with a question we should always emulate Jesus. Jesus spoke of both Love and Judgment, but He always led with Love first ( Matthew 22:36-40 )
In fact, what did He say to the centurions who nailed him to the Cross? “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” These are people who were not only crucifying the Son of God, but had no intention of even repenting. How great a Love is that?
There are very few of us led to Salvation with a single word or phrase–it usually takes at least 1 conversation. You can try leading with Judgment if you want, but I rarely see it being effective.
You are good at playing ignorant and condescending to avoid answering, so here is a very direct question:
Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross to absolve the wrath of God?
I’m tagging out of this ridiculousness.
qui tacet consentere vidator
Do you believe there is a NT text which teaches this? And it has to be a NT text as you specify Jesus. Hannah could be forgiven if she recoils from being required to affirm something the NT does not.
It is what the PCUSA’s Board which rejected the song in a 9 – 6 vote,
REPRESENTS. Yes, in and of itself, it could be construed as not a big deal. Yet words mean things; and it seems to me that everything that is done almost always represents something: a point-of-view, a philosophy, a conviction (or lack of one). Thus, the rejection of this song’s lyrics REPRESENTS a rejection of the truth within said lyrics.
The PCUSA may not be rejecting the theology of such; yet clearly the message they’re sending creates doubt and dissonance within their message. HOW one or a group does something is often almost as important as WHAT is done. I don’t condemn the PCUSA per se for this decision, but I wonder if they considered the APPEARANCE of said decision in the eyes and minds of observers and others.
The question remains: If it is such a non-issue, then why even propose to change the lyric in the first place?
If God didn’t have wrath for sin, there would be no need for the cross, for he could just shrug off our sin. So yes, the central message of the cross is love (along with free grace and forgiveness I might add), but the cross would be wholly unnecessary if God’s wrath were not real. Forsaking God’s wrath actually minimizes our sin and God’s holiness.
There’s no greater expression of God’s love than that He sent His Son to take our place and bear God’s wrath on our behalf. It’s wrath that gives love its greatest meaning. To remove references to God’s wrath belittles His love.
While I agree that God’s Wrath is not the central message of the NT, it is a central message of the OT. More importantly, wrath and righteous indignation have a proper ( Ephesians 4:26), if limited ( Ephesians 4:31 ), role in the NT message. In Matt 21:12-13, Christ becomes angry when he sees “thieves” perverting the Temple. In Luke 17:2 Christ warns us of God’s wrath if we cause others to stumble. To eliminate references to Godly wrath is to eliminate an important aspect of the Trinity. It is to easy for humans to re-position Scripture to support their personal or political views. We should eschew that practice.
And as long as I’m on Ephesians 4, let’s not forget Ephesians 4:29, I would agree with you that some have made snide & unkind comments that don’t edify our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can always disagree without being disagreeable.
I agree with you that Wrath is not the central message of the NT, but it is a central message of the OT. More importantly, the NT points out that wrath & righteous indignation have a proper ( Ephesians 4:26 ), if limited ( Ephesisans 4:31 ), role. In Matt 21:12-13 Christ becomes angry at the money changers for perverting the Temple. In Luke 17:2 Christ warns of the wrath awaiting those who lead others astray. So eliminating the reference to wrath eliminates an important aspect of the Trinity. The Bible is an inherently balanced Book & we should eschew any practice which eliminates that balance. More often than not when humans adopt a reductionist view of the Bible its to support our own personal or political views.
I also agree with you that some of the comments here are snide and unkind, and–as long as I’m on Ephesians 4–do not comport with Ephesians 4:29. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ, even when we disagree we should not be disagreeable.
On behalf of all the millions of Presbyterians who actually believe the Bible, I apologize. The PCUSA is so far gone from Christian orthodoxy they ought to be called unitarians.
I assume that the PCUSA is also going to remove the first three chapters of Romans from their pew Bibles in order to remain consistent ?
We correct the theologically unsound “by darkness slain” to “in darkness slain”; our thinking is that because God permitted Christ’s death, darkness lacked the power to slay.
Keep persevering and worshiping our just God.
I assure you that all will want Jesus to have borne the wrath of God on the day of judgment. I pray that His word will remain the standard by which all songs are measured for the church.
I don’t think anyone means to be mean spirited, but it really is a big deal. Romans 5:9 says: “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” There are many scripture verses that speak to the wrath of God from Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, Revelation etc. We cannot dismiss the wrath of God because we don’t like it. We are saved from the wrath through Christ. The central message of the cross is love and mercy. But it is the love and mercy that keeps us from the wrath.
Over sixty years ago, a young couple was attending their Congregational church in upstate New York. The husband noted that, in announcing the hymn to be sung, the minister omitted a verse which included explicit reference to the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. After the service, he asked the minister about it; sure enough, the minister rejected outright such notions of Christ’s death. That was the last Sabbath they attended that church.
Ironically enough, they thereafter began attending the Reformed Presbyterian Church, which does not sing hymns of human composition at all, singing only the inspired Psalms of Holy Scripture. They eventually joined the church; the husband was a ruling elder in the congregation for over fifty years.
Scriptural worship should not be sacrificed at the altar of Scriptural doctrine. During the sixteenth century, the Reformed branch of the Reformation spread, in part, through the singing of Psalms. If you want a Christ-centered song, sing the songs that Christ wrote through His Spirit. I will not blame anyone for admiring the lyrics or music of the song “In Christ Alone;” but for me personally, I would rather take the words of Psalms 2, 16, 22, 31, 45, 72, 103, 110, 116, 118, 130, etc.
Good points for sure, Sean. I’ve wrestled with these ideas before. But according to this line of reasoning, should we then reject anything other than the singing, reciting, or reading of scripture. I don’t see a biblical argument for this sort of narrow view of “singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs…” any moreso than I see a biblical argument against reading non-inspired authors and books.
Kevin, I would say that we should worship God according to His commandment. God requires this of us in our singing of His praise, but not in our prayers or sermons, hence no Book of Prayers or Book of Sermons or Homilies. (On the other hand, reading of Scripture is another element or part of worship, in which He prescribes the content.)
I won’t get into “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” as many others have done so with much more ability than I could offer. I do find it telling, though, that most who take your interpretation of those passages do not actually sing Psalms. I would only ask if that is consistent, if you do understand the first word in that phrase to refer to the Biblical Psalms.
Hmm… so the gift of writing songs about our love of God and His glory is something that God has taken from us? It is a joy that only the likes of David and Moses can know? It is wrong to sing about the gospel?
David and Moses (and Asaph, Jeduthun, etc.) were inspired by God’s Spirit to write Scripture. Setting other songs on a level with the Psalms has a tendency either to exalt those other songs to the place of Scripture (pentecostalism/charismaticism), or lower the Psalms below the place of Scripture (modernism/liberalism).
The question is not, Is it wrong to sing about the gospel? We sing about the gospel whenever we sing the Psalms, properly understood. The question should be asked, Is it wrong to worship God with something He has not appointed? Does He have the right to define how He wants to be worshipped? Or is He going to accept whatever we feel like giving Him, just because it is something that we like?
“Does He have the right to define how He wants to be worshipped?”
Of course he does. Who would disagree with that? Where we disagree is on exactly what God has defined regarding worship. I have not heard a credible argument that says we are not to worship with songs outside of those found in scripture.
Jeff, there are many who reject this principle of worship. Your last sentence sounds as though the burden of proof requires a demonstration from Scripture that something is forbidden in worship. Whatever else you may call it, that is not the regulative principle of worship.
If I might ask, what arguments have you read or heard on this subject?
Sean, yes- for God to create people will both a desire AND ability to create music that is a response to who he is and what he’s done, and then command them not to use it, would require a demonstration from Scripture for it to be credible to me.
I have not read very deeply on this subject at all because I would have to hear a HIGHLY compelling argument to even entice me to spend the time and effort required to research such notion. Thus far, I’ve seen no argument that even comes close.
Jeff, my point was that your assumption is that God does not determine how we are to worship Him, and leaves it up to us to figure it out. You are only confirming that this is your working assumption. The entire point of the regulative principle is that creativity has no place in worship; that desire and ability are only valid if used in the way of God’s commandment. Compare Bezaleel and Aholiab with Nadab and Abihu.
I would argue that this ought to be assumed by all Protestants, who profess a belief in the sole sufficiency of Scripture (sola scriptura). The regulative principle of worship is nothing more than sola scriptura applied to worship; but exclusive psalmody itself is a natural conclusion from sola scriptura that the Book of Psalms is sufficient for the purpose for which God gave it, as a hymnal for His people. Just as we ought to add no extra books to the canon, or unwritten traditions to be of equal value with holy writ, so likewise we should not add man-written hymns to the singing of God’s Psalms. The rejection of either of these (the regulative principle and exclusive psalmody) is, at its heart, a rejection of the Protestant principle of sola scriptura. — That’s something of a prima facie argument, rather than getting too deep into exegetical arguments.
If creativity has no place in worship, then you cannot have music in worship at all. How do you sing a psalm without creating a melody, or at the very least creatively applying an existing melody to the words?
Your assumption that I believe that God does not determine how we worship is wrong. You and I simply disagree on which aspects he regulates. Your focus appears to be on the mode of worship, whereas I believe God is concerned with the heart of the worship (spirit) and the content (truth) of the worship.
Nadab and Abihu did offend with their worship, and they defied a very clear command of how worship was to be performed. They did so because their hearts were not right and their motives were impure. The clear principle in scripture is that it is our hearts God is concerned with above the external trappings of ceremony.
And nobody I know would equate “In Christ Alone” with a psalm any more than they would a Jonathan Edwards sermon with the teaching of Paul.
Jeff, The very fine music director of Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, wrote some NEW hymns with Jas. M. Boice, in the late 1990s. Dr. Paul S. Jones is a noted, most competent, and worthy commentator on this subject; and has written a fine book on this subject. I think that it’s entitled, “Singing & Making Music”.
As if the removal of a few words would hinder the movement of God in growing His Children from living outside His will. Sometimes we need to be reminded of redemption. Just sometimes
YES! THANK YOU!
“Central meaning” is a strong term, given the numerous ways that the NT speaks about the significance of the cross.
Maybe the verse that says “Scorned by the ones He came to save” describes their decision…
Added comment: That Christ came to satisfy God’s wrath (judgment) on sin is the cornerstone of the gospel and our redemption… Unfortunately the rejection of that essential doctrine (in this song) is apparently coming from the church leadership….
I think how we think about God’s wrath has a lot to do with denominational background and theological paradigm. I think if you’re a calvinist, particularly, it will be more of a deal than if you’re not. I feel I hear about God’s wrath and judgement most from those with calvinist leanings.
I also think there’s a lot of different definitions of “God’s wrath” flying around these comment boards. I’m sure there’s a lot of “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means” happening here. Some people here seem to make it more personal, like God’s wrath is directed at people personally, which I object to. I believe his wrath to be against sin and evil in general which I think is the view also expressed by many people on this comment board. There are also perspectives on other things that inform how we interpret God’s wrath. For example, how one views Christ’s death, hell, eternity, eschatology, etc etc. There are various interpretations of these things amongst Christians and this can inform how we view this hymn change, the gravity of such a change, and our interpretation of the importance and weight of God’s wrath to begin with.
Those of us who believe in the radical grace and love of God, a grace and love not conditioned upon some petty need for retribution, are not scorning Christ. Rather we are desperately seeking to be faithful to the love which he and the Father showed as Christ hung from the cross.
texerwinPrescott Jay Erwin
Really, Karl? “…some PETTY NEED for RETRIBUTION” …REALLY? Penal substitution is not simply about retributive justice, but about restorative, remunerative, reparative, and rehabilitative justice, as well as aspects of deterrence, restraint, and incapacitation. And there’s nothing petty about it — unless, of course, sin was really no big deal in the first place, that is to say, if the offense because of sin was petty. Is God’s offense at man’s sin petty? If the offense is petty, if the sin is petty, then the love is not really that big a deal, either, and justice, as well as justification, are empty ideals. And the Lord’s intervention interrupted distributive justice, whereby all sinners (in other words, all people) deserve the same thing — death. Was Christ’s death on the cross a penal substitution with regard to the wrath of God? According to Scripture, yes; but not that alone, SO much more. Penal substitution IS AN aspect of the death of Christ, but not the ONLY aspect. Let’s not be shallow by EITHER emptying the propitiation of Christ for our sins of its penal aspect OR by making it the sole focus.
Central to Christian theology is the tension between the demands of justice and the demands of love. Ignoring the wrath of God and magnifying His love is no more justified than ignoring His love and magnifying His wrath.
Excellent point, Jim. It seems like the contemporary church must walk a fine line between Laodicean and Pharisaic interpretations–are any of them getting it right?
We shouldn’t be surprised. Richard Niebuhr pretty much nailed it fifty years ago with his description of liberalism: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”
Last time I read the newspaper (admittedly, a long time ago) the wrath of mankind seemed to be the real problem.
It’s the same fight that’s been going on for years, regarding a penal substitution view of the atonement. Unfortunately for those in PCUSA, this ground was yielded long ago. Kudos to Getty and Townend for standing their ground. Somebody has to. For those who can’t stomach the idea of God’s wrath toward sinners and the need for an atoning sacrifice, being ashamed of the Gospel is not a good place to be, and that doctrine is at the very heart of the Gospel. It’s all over the New Testament.
To change the line in the hymn because they disagree with the wrath of God being satisfied by Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross is to preach a different gospel.
I think now we will sing it twice as much… The PCUSA and the Unitarians should work on a joint hymnal.
David C. Eddy
United we stand; divided we fall. Christianity is all about believing in Christ and living in accordance with His teachings which is the will of God; it is not about conservative or liberal.
Anyone who disregards or denies sovereign justice and wrath are under judgement and wrath.
Wow – some comments here voiced with very real scorn and unholy judgment! Let’s save the wrath for God?
Denny, this is old news, from April. I remember reading about it fairly extensively at that time.
To me it is more significant that liberals will decry a God who is supposed to be all powerful and all knowing, but who still allows evil to exist. But then when we show in the scripture how evil is dealt with, they cry foul. People are intolerably inconsolable by the ways that seem right to man. Thank God for His Word.
And that’s exactly why most liberals are actually just open theists in denial.
I say we each donate $50 to our local food banks as penance for our petty arguing.
Do I detect judgment in your comment? Hmmm…
Calm down, man-cub. 😉
The focal point of the cross is Jesus crucified. He took the wrath of God, due all mankind, upon himself. Jesus’ substitutionary death in taking this wrath is not only central to His coming to earth but is a sobering thought to the sinner. Once realized, we then love Him as He first loved us.
I would strongly suggest that anyone denying wrath reads Roman 1:18 and then checks out the other 197 times wrath is mentioned in the scriptures.
I guess no Charles Wesley for the PCUSA then.
Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?
I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.
I have spilt His precious blood,
Trampled on the Son of God,
Filled with pangs unspeakable,
I, who yet am not in hell!
I my Master have denied,
I afresh have crucified,
And profaned His hallowed Name,
Put Him to an open shame.
Whence to me this waste of love?
Ask my Advocate above!
See the cause in Jesus’ face,
Now before the throne of grace.
Jesus, answer from above,
Is not all Thy nature love?
Wilt Thou not the wrong forget,
Permit me to kiss Thy feet?
If I rightly read Thy heart,
If Thou all compassion art,
Bow Thine ear, in mercy bow,
Pardon and accept me now.
Jesus speaks, and pleads His blood!
He disarms the wrath of God;
The REAL question now is whether current Methodists subscribe to the words by their own Charles Wesley in this quotation. Why is it that I have doubt? No, it’s not looking down at them; rather, I want to know: do they give assent to these words . . . or not?
For those of you saying how important and central God’s wrath is to the Gospel, do you not understand that relatively few in the church had a PSA view of atonement until the Reformation? Augustine did not- really Anselm is the one I see as the person to understand a “satisfaction” view of atonement, and he didn’t show up until 1,000 years after Jesus was born.
I believe in PSA. I believe in the wrath of God. I believe that knowing this enhances my relationship with God and my worship. “In Christ Alone” is one of my favorite worships songs because it describes my theology so beautifully. I do not go to a PC(USA) church (I am PCA) and I lament the state of that denomination.
However, saying that God’s wrath is central to the Gospel is overstating. For hundreds of years Christians were able to worship and serve God without understanding what we do now about who we were saved from. Some did think that we were ransomed, but from the devil not God.
What is central to the Gospel is that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has given new life to those who repent and trust in him. You do not have to understand that the price was paid to God in order to understand you are saved from the effects of sin. You do not have to believe that it was God’s wrath we were saved from in order to believe that those who have not repented and trusted in Christ are damned to hell.
We are not known by our ability to understand intellectually the atonement, but by our ability to love. I’m not saying we ought not to preach PSA. On the contrary, it is the truth of scripture and if we do not understand it, we do not understand critical things about ourselves and God. But we need to tread very carefully when we start asserting what is “central” to the Gospel, otherwise you label people outside the faith who God does not.
I think the point is not that wrath needs to have such a central place or we’re all doomed, but that the committee is rejecting doctrine by trying to remove a well-written verse from their hymnal. If Getty never wrote the original line, then it would still be a fine hymn, but trying to change it after now millions have sung it is a statement of denial, aligning themselves further with the liberalization of the church.
I responded above to someone else about the history of the doctrine of substitution, but I would also disagree here about the relative novelty of Anselm’s view. Here is Cyril (4th century): For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die. There must needs therefore have happened one of two things; either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness He should cancel the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness.
Saint Bede (7th century), on 2nd John: The Lord intercedes for us not by words but by his dying compassion, because he took upon himself the sins which he was unwilling to condemn his elect for.
This is expected in the PCUSA. I was a member of a PCUSA church and attended General Assembly a few years ago. I spoke about my own sexual struggles and how the church needs to stand firm in God’s Word regarding this. Well, there was wrath poured upon me by many of those “tolerant” presbyterians that were wearing their rainbow scarves. The worst was when one pastor sent some of his youth to circle around me and a few others like myself singing “All You Need is Love.” The lgbt activists wouldn’t come near me as if I were a leper when I am much like them.
The truth that God’s son, Jesus Christ, took my sins upon Him to spare me God’s wrath is something that I will never cease to be amazed. Oh, such great love He showed to take God’s wrath for me.
I attend a PCUSA church, and I assure you that we are NOT rejecting the Gospel or the cross. Regardless of what esoteric, theological points some of you think you’re scoring, PCUSA congregants know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. We know that without his death, we would all be doomed to be kept apart from God forever. We know that Jesus’ death removed our sins so that we can hope to some day dwell with God forever in heaven. That’s the Good News. That’s what we believe. So please come down from your high horses, and stop beating up the PCUSA. One hymn being excluded from the official hymnal is simply not as significant as many of you believe.
Thank you for sharing your insight as someone who attends a PCUSA church. It’s great to hear from a first-person perspective! 🙂
Brendt Wayne Waters
It is ironic to the point of being laughable that Getty and Townend would stick so hard to a line about PSA in a song titled “In Christ **ALONE**”.
BTW, since so many of the commenters here are so quick to attribute all sorts of ridiculous beliefs to people the don’t know from Adam, let me note that I happen to believe in PSA. That said, hypocritical irony should be pointed out.
texerwinPrescott Jay Erwin
You’ll have to explain the irony, then.
Brendt Wayne Waters
I didn’t think it could be more obvious, but OK. The song is titled, “In Christ ALONE” (emphasis mine). “Alone” implies, nay, MEANS, exclusivity. No alternatives. No add-ons. Yet it’s clear that Townend and Getty actually cling to Christ AND a theological construct, not in Christ alone.
No matter how good or accurate XYZ is, when we add it to the gospel message, our preaching becomes “another gospel”. And we all know what Paul said about that.
texerwinPrescott Jay Erwin
Another Gospel? It seems you’re being a bit obtuse, brother. We’re not talking about some “theological construct” ADDED to the Gospel. It’s an integral part OF the Gospel. The person and work of Christ are inseparable. What would “In Christ Alone” mean if somehow Who Christ is was divorced from what He has done, various aspects of which the hymn speaks to: are we talking about Christ AND His incarnation AND His humiliation AND His crucifixion AND His resurrection AND His ascension AND His glorification AND His return as if there’s some Gospel message devoid of these things? THAT would be another Gospel. These are not ADDED TO the Gospel, they ARE the Gospel. It makes no sense even if we were speaking for the other side in this particular instance, “In Christ Alone” + “God’s Love;” they can’t be separated. For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son to be the Propitiation for our sins and having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Amazing.
Brendt Wayne Waters
Romans 10:9-10: that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
I fail to see where PSA gets mentioned there. But maybe I’m just annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand.
In our zeal to embrace deeper truths, we have become inordinately enamored with those truths and have set them up as roadblocking prerequisites. It’s getting to where you have to have an MDiv (or at least be a fanboy of someone who does) in order to come to Jesus. MAYBE it’s not another gospel (though I still think it is); but it IS an epic fail.
texerwinPrescott Jay Erwin
Bro. Brendt, I think you’re confusing the Gospel with how one responds to the Gospel, how one exercises faith unto salvation. This is NOT about how one “comes to Jesus” or even a question of whether or not the folks on the other side of the discussion are saved. Let me ask you this: If Romans 10:9-10 IS THE Gospel, pure and simple, what are we saved from? It doesn’t say. Why do we need salvation? It doesn’t say. Why did God raise Jesus from the dead and what effect does that have for those who believe? It doesn’t say. If He was raised from the dead, obviously He died: why? It doesn’t say. Let me help you answer part of the question with what Paul wrote earlier in Romans: “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Rom 5:9). We confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, and we will be saved — from the wrath of God. For with our hearts we believe unto righteousness and with our mouths we make confession unto salvation — from the wrath of God. If there’s an “epic fail,” it’s yours.
Brendt Wayne Waters
I think I liked it better when you just called me obtuse.
texerwinPrescott Jay Erwin
The Celebrating Grace Hymnal uses the line change, so I wonder why the PCUSA was not allowed. Does anyone have any insight on this? I’m glad the Gettys stuck up for the original lyrics in this case, but they either allowed the change before or The Celebrating Grace Hymnal changed the words without their permission.
We can be pretty sure that it was the latter—-making the change without permission. I do not believe that the Gettys would be inconsistent by standing their ground later and not before. That just doesn’t make sense.
Thanks for your comment. In fact, I absolutely agree with you (and Denny) that the committee is rejecting an important doctrine with their decision. I am glad that Getty and Townend held their ground on the song.
My concern is with the subsequent statement that Denny made that God’s wrath is “central” and the comments by others who said that to not understand part the wrath of God plays in the atonement is a “different Gospel”. I think it is an important and Biblical doctrine, I just think we need to be careful about how central we make it.
Regarding history, I’ll concede I’m not fully versed on atonement history. Since I believe PSA is how the NT church understood atonement, I’m sure there were people throughout the history of church that have held to it. I see that I was wrong to imply that Anselm was the first to bring satisfaction to the forefront. However, my understanding of history is that it was never the predominate or official view of the church until the Reformation (by “never”, I’m assuming going back to sometime after the Apostles and their teaching). If that is true, then can we say the church worshiped for centuries in ignorance as to the “central” meaning of the cross? I believe that God would allows to lose some important doctrines and live with some misunderstandings, but it’s a bit much for me to accept the church at large did not understand the fundamental nature of the Gospel for over a thousand years.
In all honesty, the creedal statements of the church were not formalized during the time of the Acts of the Apostles. By your logic should we also assume that they misunderstood the doctrine of the Trinity simply because we have no concise creed documented from this era of church history? Of course not. The wrath of God which was satisfied by Christ’s death on the cross has always been present in the Bible. Hence, it has always been a cardinal doctrine of Christianity. That there is not any extra-biblical historical documentation from the early church to back this up does not mean they worshiped in ignorance.
Brett, it’s not a matter of a missing creed, but there is evidence that the historic church understood the atonement differently. From what I can tell, (admittedly I am no historian, so I’m open to being proven wrong), for a thousand years (maybe 1500) there is evidence of multiple understandings of the nature the atonement. What was not in dispute was that atonement was both required and made.
I DO assume that the first century church understood that Jesus satisfied the wrath of God, just that there is no evidence that this is how the church as a whole understood atonement for centuries afterward.
What is more important, how atonement works, or that it was necessary and provided? What sends people to hell, failure to understand to whom they owe their debts, or a failure to repent and follow Jesus? I would say, judging from the examples of preaching in the NT, it is the latter.
When I look at Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, he does not talk about the wrath of God. What he DOES say is who Jesus is, what he did, and that the people needed to repent. It is hard for me to imagine that any central or necessary component of the Gospel would be left out of the account of the first evangelistic sermon recorded in scripture. Can we assume the first century Jew would have understood the implication? Maybe, but we need to tread carefully with that kind of assumption.
Again, if the church for centuries has evidence of showing an un-uniform idea of how atonement works, it seems it is not the core of the Gospel.
When I share the Gospel, I do talk about God’s wrath- that it is before him that we need to be justified. So I’m not saying we should hide this aspect of the Gospel. But if someone came to me and said “Jeff, I don’t really understand this idea of God’s wrath, but I know that Jesus atoned for my sins” I would treat that person as a brother or sister in Christ, and then show them from scripture why atonement was necessary to satisfy God’s wrath. If they failed to agree with me, I would not consider them an unbeliever, but I would think they were missing an important doctrine from the scripture.
Well said, Jeff S.
I think you are saying that someone can have salvation without fully understanding the necessary doctrine of penal substitution. That’s one thing, but for the PCUSA to be comprised of theologians and those who have claimed for years to be based on mature scholarship of the scriptures yet reject singing the doctrine of God’s wrath being satisfied in Christ’s death on the cross is wholly different. Not only do they have their own theological history to draw from, but they have the rich history of the deliberations of the church to aid them in determining the weight of the doctrine they sing.
Anselm asked, “Why did the Father send the Son?” The answer: The Father sent the Son because God wills to punish sin and to save by the atoning work of Christ all who believe. This is important and should be sung.
Brett, yes, that is what I’m saying. I was specifically responding to the idea that PSA is “central” to the Gospel, or to not believe it is to “believe another Gospel”.
I agree with what you are saying about the PC(USA) rejecting this song, though this is nothing new. As I understand it, the PC(USA) has also ordained a pastor who denied the divinity of Christ. To me, that is even more egregious than overlooking or softening the idea of PSA.
(I apologize for not using my full name on my last comment- I was logged in with my normal wordpress account which does not use my full name and didn’t realize it).
The Fellowship/ECO meetings in Atlanta last summer sang “the love of God was magnified.”
we the believers have been saved from the wrath of God, not so for the sons of disobedience. steve fiedler
…the Sons of Disobedience, who are also called the “Children of Wrath” (Eph 2:3), interestingly enough.
There are two major conservative Presbyterian denominations that rejected PCUSA liberalism years ago. One from the northern US (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) and one from the southern US (Presbyterian Church of America). They collaborated on a hymnal a few years ago, focusing on hymns that boldly and accurately proclaim the tenets of our faith. My wife and I specifically chose the OPC for this type of scholarly tenacity.
There also is the orthodox and conservative EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church).