Rejection of Popular Hymn Stirs Debate
There has long been a schism in belief of God’s nature. In the Old Testament, God is quick to anger and outright vengeful. In the New Testament, God is more a figure of mercy and love. This schism is now part of the reason the Presbyterian Church (USA) is gaining attention from all Christian corners.
The hymn “In Christ Alone”, one of the most popular hymns in Christianity, will not be included in the next PCUSA hymnal because of the lyrics, “Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied”. The Presbyterian Church Committee on Congregational Song requested that the words be changed to “the love of God was magnified”. The authors, Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, said no. In the end, the committee voted to drop the hymn altogether, sparking near immediate pushback from more conservative sects. The debate over the hymn is a common mix of Church politics and rival views of theology.
The general sentiment of those who take exception to the decision seems to be that this is the result of liberals (Presbyterianism is known for its more liberal approach to theology) who want to remove God’s wrath from the hymnal entirely. In a piece for The Washington Post, president of Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention Russell D. Moore wrote, “When Christians sing about the wrath of God, we are singing about ourselves. Our consciences point us to the truth that, left to ourselves, we are undone.”
Mary Louise Bringle, who chaired the committee vote, maintains that it was not a decision made lightly. She wrote earlier in the year, “it would do a disservice to this educational mission, the argument ran, to perpetuate by way of a new (second) text the view that the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger.”