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Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.
If Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) had it’s own way it would write it’s own bible. A bible written in pencil -so that you can erase the bits you don’t like. Speaking of which….
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.
“When wrath goes”, notes Danny Burk, “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”.
Timothy George rightly sums up this pick and choose attitude in his article titled No Squishy Love:
Modifying hymn lyrics to suit one’s taste, of course, is nothing new. The Nestorians in the early church refused to sing Theotokos, preferring the less offensive Christotokos, in their Marian liturgy. More recently, the Universalist leader Kenneth L. Patton kept the “Ein Feste Burg” tune by Martin Luther but replaced “A mighty fortress is our God” with “Man is the earth upright and proud.” And then there is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir which sings—and quite beautifully I might add—the Reginald Heber hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” to the tune of “Nicaea” (!!) but in the first and last stanza changes “God in three persons, blessed Trinity” to “God in thy glory through eternity.”
Those who treat the wrath of God as taboo, whether in sermons or hymns, stand in a long lineage too… According to Tertullian, they said that “a better god has been discovered, one who is neither offended nor angry nor inflicts punishment, who has no fire warming up in hell, and no outer darkness wherein there is shuddering and gnashing of teeth: he is merely kind.”
Why do PCUSA continue to alienate themselves from the rest of the body of Christ? Well, ‘they went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 john 2:19)’