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Amy is co-host and blogger for both Stand Up for the Truth and Naomi's Table, two ministries that give her the opportunity to write and talk about Jesus all day long. She has written, produced and broadcast in the realm of television and radio news, magazine business journals and marketing materials.

PCUSA rejects popular hymn “In Christ Alone”

I saw this over at today. Apparently the reason the Presbyterian Church USA doesn’t like “In Christ Alone (one of my favorites), is because of that unpopular, un-politically correct word, “Wrath.” As we’ve pointed out many times here at SUFTT, the more sin is watered down, the less we have of the true Gospel. In other words – no sin = FALSE gospel.  The PCUSA has been going down a concerning path for quite some time now, and it appears that this is just another symptom of the problem the devil delights in: a departure from Truth to appeal to the world. Here’s the article:

PCUSA rejects popular hymn “In Christ Alone”

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.

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

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32 Responses to “PCUSA rejects popular hymn “In Christ Alone””

  1. vanessa #

    This is one of my favourite hymns.
    And well done to the authors, for not changing this beautiful and truthful song.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:04 PM Reply
  2. Fred #

    When I opened this article, I was expecting the objection to be to the first line.

    July 30, 2013 at 3:30 AM Reply
  3. As The Lord will allow us to behold His mighty hand, I hope He will not find offence in my remembering the lines to an old Martha & the Vandellas song from the '60s:

    "Nowhere to run baby, nowhere to hide."

    May His Presence shine upon you!

    July 30, 2013 at 3:55 AM Reply
  4. Kevin O'Neil #

    It's a pity that nobody thought of changing the line to:

    God's righteousness was satisfied.

    July 30, 2013 at 9:03 AM Reply
    • lyn #

      That would not be entirely correct, for Christ was not crucified only that we could be made righteous, He was crucified to atone for sin. God's anger at the sins of those who would believe was spent on His own Son. He was the propitiation for sin.
      If we do not speak of wrath and sin, it would be better to not speak at all.

      July 30, 2013 at 11:20 AM Reply
      • Kevin O'Neil #

        Lyn, it would be perfectly sound theology to use 'righteousness' in place of 'wrath. And there are two reasons that this exchange of words is to be preferred, in my opinion.

        1. God's righteousness had been offended by man's sin and the outward consequence of that was God's wrath. We both agree here. But, as you can see, wrath is secondary to righteousness, it is the expression of His offended righteousness. Righteousness is the primary factor here. First His righteousness, if you prefer, His holiness, was offended and then He responded in wrath. Therefore, whilst it is correct to say that God's wrath was propitiated at the cross, this doesn't reach far enough, nor deep enough.

        2. The use of the two words 'wrath' and 'propitiation' should be used with care because pagan religions were full of any amount of temperamental 'gods' who were always on the verge of casting a thunderbolt our way, or worse, and the attitude of the ancients was that they were anxious to offer any gift which may propitiate the wrathful 'god'. As you can see, the risk of this sort of corrupt and unworthy thinking infecting good Biblical theology is very great.

        You are absolutely right to say that the wrath of God was propitiated at the cross, but, for the two reasons mentioned, I believe that the use of 'righteousness' in place of 'wrath' is to be preferred.
        On a personal note, I use the words 'wrath' and 'propitiation' but I invariably include a brief explanation for the hearers, to avoid stumbling them.

        Of course, the reason that the people in this Article want to ditch the word 'wrath' is for much less honourable reasons, and I stand together with you in opposing this.

        August 1, 2013 at 7:21 AM Reply
    • Gary #

      That's like The Ed Sullivan Show telling the Doors not to sing '…we can't get much higher…' in the song Light My Fire. The song is fine the way it is. Noone started messing with the song until the PCUSA (Politically Correct USA) started poking their nose where it shouldn't. This is just one more example of man trying to read the mind of God and establish man's ridiculous rules. Really? the Politically Correct USA will strike a song from its books for one word that they are totally misinterpreting? C'ya later PCUSA. This is the straw that broke the camel's back aside from the load of $#%^ that they passed at last year's GA debacle.

      July 30, 2013 at 11:29 AM Reply
      • John White #

        Perhaps the watchmen should open their eyes. "In Christ Alone" is in the new PCUSA Hymnal. Look up the contents online. Sometimes groups, and individuals, are so intent on criticizing that they close their eyes to the truth. And that's a shame.

        July 31, 2013 at 7:28 AM Reply
        • The original article states: "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."

          If you have the link, John White, please provide it. Or perhaps you are looking at an older version? If it is the newer version, is the word "wrath" included?

          July 31, 2013 at 11:41 AM Reply
  5. Bill #

    their is no hope for these vermin, they rejected christ and his truth and exchanged it for a lie of the devil. they will be judged harshly then the ones that are not christian.

    July 30, 2013 at 12:49 PM Reply
  6. HERES ONE YOU NEVER HEAR IN CHURCH,ITS the most unpopular of all, in every church in america,…REPENT OF YOUR SINS A MAKE AMENDS WITH THE LORD AS YOUR REDEMPION DRAWS NEAR,and this time you better do it, cause OBAMA THE ANTI-CHRIST is about to bomb america back into the stone age and NO ONE will admit it could happen,in such a godless country as america is, but not much longer cause its going to be completely destroyed….OH,almost forgot,a message from the lord,1start calling each other every day,2.start going over each others house and become familar with where each other live,3start having meetings in groups to decide how to avoid the mark of the beast,and being put into a fema death camp….THE LORD WANTS ALL HIS CHILDREN TO START ON THIS RIGHT AWAY……he says your out of time………

    July 30, 2013 at 1:20 PM Reply
  7. Diana #

    Jeremiah 5:31
    The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?

    July 30, 2013 at 2:03 PM Reply
  8. Kenny #

    Fwiw… The new Passion CD also did this, except they deleted the whole second stanza of the song. This is so sickening to see people run away from fundamental biblical truths. I absolutely love the way Newsboys sings this. This song preaches more gospel than most preachers today. So sad, but not surprising.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:38 AM Reply
    • Kenny, which CD is it? let me know and I will do a follow up.

      July 31, 2013 at 11:51 AM Reply
      • Kenny #

        It's the Passion: Let The Future Begin CD that just came out. Kristian Stanfill is who sings it. I couldn't believe it.

        July 31, 2013 at 11:58 AM Reply
  9. Marie #

    Acts 16:25 "But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them."

    Author: God

    This one simple Scripture from the very Word of God is such an inspiration to my faith in Jesus Christ. For while Paul and Silas were imprisioned, they were still free to sing as God, the Holy Spirit, led them….with no inhibitions (they did not worry about what the prisioners thought of them.) Such freedom in Christ!

    The Psalms are a lovely book of Songs that address every aspect of a person's being and God, the Holy Spirit inspired David to write these for us today. There is no greater writing than that of our LORD.

    I have but a few concerns…..does it really matter if this organization chose to eliminate the hymn from their hymnals which are more likely worshipping the "self" or the works of man? Can we not sing praises, hymns, and songs….just like Paul and Silas did in prision regardless of a carnal organization's choice of word play? And in the grand scheme of things, how often do we go and sit in a church building and worship the "worship"? Case in point, "Boy, that worship band sounded great today"…."The music was so loud, causing my head to pound, so I had to get up and leave."….."The church choir did a really good job and their robes looked so neatly pressed"….."That piano player made so many mistakes, it was so hard to follow!"….etc., etc., etc……..

    We have made an idol out of "worship" and it grieves the Body of Christ that we had put people on platforms to lord over us in "leading" and "performing" worship, often hiddenly desiring to be praised for "their" performance.

    I learned recently that the word "worship" actually means to "fall prostrate or to fall on one's face." How often do we see this in church systems? I have never witnessed this in the religious system, sorry to say…..only boasting and bragging/enormous pride in so called worship. No repentance. No humility.

    In the end, it is just fine with me if the word "wrath" is eliminated from a song as most of us are aware, if we are truly honest, that the words "sin" and "repentance" and "humility" have been eliminated from the church of man altogether. This is what we now hear from pew sitters…."I don't do anything wrong" ….thus the "church" is no different than the rest of the world….it is the world.

    We have the liberty to sing praises to our LORD as the Spirit leads us…..inside or outside the prison walls.

    Praise our LORD Jesus Christ throughout all eternity!

    August 1, 2013 at 2:59 AM Reply
    • Sharon #

      I do concur Marie that many have made an idol out of a redefined term "worship". There are many things that are being redefined….a real "sleight of hand" from the adversary.

      For some people, if God were to remove the guitars from their hands or ask them to step down from the stage, so He could use them for some other mission……they would become a "basket case"….I have no doubt, many have a hidden motive other than first & foremost giving glory to God. We can be real good at fudging with our true motives.

      In regards to the post, what I find amusing is that the PCUSA asked the writers of the song to change the lyrics for them. Why did they not quietly decide to just not put the song in their hymnal, instead of making it "news", that I even heard on the radio? [Hebrews 4:12,13]

      August 1, 2013 at 5:21 AM Reply
  10. Marie #

    May I also add this……In the case of Paul and Silas, our brothers in Christ, were they in need of a leader to initiate worship? Did they wait for the band's instruments to be fine tuned before they began singing? Did they receive an applause from man after their performance? Did they get any "high fives", "pats on the back", "praise from man to flatter their egos" after their performance?

    Or was their worship purely focused on the Glory of Christ?

    And now we sent people to "worship leadership classes" designed to perform many functions in the church system….we must now have trained performers in charge of worship for after all, the sound must be perfect in order to enter into the "presence of a god", no average Joe will due…….they must have perfected voice and instrument training. And if the planned worship does not pluck at the strings of the pew sitters hearts in the form of emotion, then the coffers may not be filled to the brim, so we must appease to the senses in order to manipulate the desired outcome….more and more money! And are those "performers" really worshipping our LORD in Spirit and in Truth…….or are they watching you, the pew sitter, to see if their "performance" musters up any emotion in your heart…..after all, are they not there to show us how wonderful they are in their, I mean God's eyes?

    And in the end, we now pay "music ministers" to lead us in churches……..I wonder if the prisoners threw trinkets at the feet of Paul and Silas when they were finished.

    So what has "church" really become?

    For some, singing praises, psalms, and hymns to our LORD, out in the city park while walking my dog, has been some of the most pure worship I can even describe.

    Praise Jesus for His freedom and liberty…..He has come to set the captives free!

    August 1, 2013 at 10:26 AM Reply
  11. Kenny #

    God's righteousness is one of His attributes, or you could say His character. He is righteousGod. Therefore His wrath is what needed satisfied. He always is in perfect righteousness. I know this seems like semantics, but it's actually very important. We must contend for every part of our precious gospel. Paul illustrates the distinction in Romans:

    Romans 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

    August 1, 2013 at 2:38 PM Reply
    • Kevin O'Neil #

      Thankyou, Kenny. We're singing off the same songsheet, if you'll excuse the pun!

      Scripture is crystal clear that it is God's wrath that is to be visited on the earth and on every unbeliever. The only escape is by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ; the wrath due to us was expended upon Him at the Cross. If anyone seeks to erase all mention of God's wrath then he is in serious danger of wandering into heresy.

      My point is simply this: God's righteousness, as you say, is an attribute of God and is therefore inseparable from Him. As you say, He is always righteous. However, His wrath is not something which He always has (thank God!), but something to which He is 'provoked' Zech.8:14, by the unrighteousness of man Rom.1:8. His righteousness expresses itself in wrath whenever unrighteousness appears. Because He created the world in, through and for righteousness, the opposite provokes not only His wrath but demands an accounting, sooner or later. The books must be balanced or else the universe would cease to exist. We depend upon the wrath of God springing unfailingly from His righteousness.

      So, I don't deny this whole business about wrath and propitiation, heaven forbid, but I am saying that righteousness, being the source of His wrath, is a theme which we can preach, and when we do, we can bring in the related issue of wrath and propitiation, concepts which can be confused with pagan ideas and which therefore we should patiently explain. I've mentioned this in the second point of my previous comment.

      One other point which occurs to me is this: Righteousness is God's and His alone. Wrath, by contrast, is not only possessed by men Js.1:20, but also by Satan Rev.12:12. Furthermore, it can often be directly linked with witchcraft and hatred Gal.5:20. Hence, the subject needs expressing with great care and consideration so that people don't get the wrong idea. God's wrath is not like man's wrath! We can't state this too often. The latter can spring from hatred and self, the former always springs from God's righteousness, explaining this prevents unworthy thoughts of the Almighty.

      For these reasons, and for those mentioned in my first comment, I believe that to exchange 'God's righteousness was satisfied' for 'the wrath of God was satisfied' is not only acceptable but, possibly, to be preferred.
      Although I myself would be perfectly happy singing either, but certainly not in singing a song which has been deviously tampered with in order to avoid offence, which it looks like PCUSA is doing.

      August 2, 2013 at 3:27 AM Reply
      • Kenny #

        Kevin, I agree with a lot of what you said. However, I contend that God's righteousness didn't need to be satisfied. His wrath did. I think we are on the same page though, because I would say God's righteous standard must be satisfied. But we receive that by faith when we believe. Back to the point, I contend God's wrath was satisfied through what Jesus did on the cross. When we believe, He then makes us righteous. Until we believe we stand in judgement for rejecting the atoneing work of Christ.

        August 2, 2013 at 3:48 AM Reply
        • Kevin O'Neil #

          Thanks Kenny, this is very thought provoking.

          To my thinking, God's 'righteousness' is too close to God's 'righteous standards' as to allow for a distinction. If His 'righteous standards' must be satisfied, as you say, then surely that is the same as saying 'His righteousness' must be satisfied, as I said. Am I missing something here?

          And you speak of our receiving the gift of righteousness through faith in Christ. Very true, but not relevant to the point in discussion. Whether or not any single person receives this gift makes not an atom of difference to the fact of God's Righteousness. Maybe I've misunderstood your meaning. Maybe you're speaking of us satisfying God by being clothed with Christ's righteousness and living that out in daily life. That's another subject, surely.

          This story may help me express what I'm trying to say, theology can be so difficult to discuss: When one of my sister's sons was little he was rude to his Mum and I was very angry. My anger, at its purest and best level, had its source in my sense of 'what was right'. He should never be rude to his Mum, it breaks some very important rule. At the risk of sounding pompous, my sense of righteousness was offended and it expressed itself in anger. Although, certainly, my anger needed addressing, what was more important than this little incident was that things should be set right again, that he should apologise to his Mum and thereafter show respect. When that happened (and it did) my anger subsided because my sense of righteousness was satisfied.

          August 2, 2013 at 8:22 AM Reply
          • Kenny #

            Kevin, I think we're in agreement for the most part. I tend to be a little fundamental. I'll try to clear up what I meant. God never has needed His righteousness to be satisfied. He is Righteous. After the fall, we kindled God's wrath through sin. Jesus became the propitiation for our sin on the cross, thus satisfying God's wrath for us. This work is done and finished. Those who now will believe upon Jesus are clothed in righteousness, without which we could never approach God. This is given upon one believing in faith. To God be the Glory!! Be blessed Kevin, I've enjoyed this.

            August 2, 2013 at 1:40 PM
          • Kevin O'Neil #

            The pleasure and honour was all mine, Kenny.

            Be blessed, my friend, in a thousand ways.

            August 2, 2013 at 9:17 PM
          • Kevin O'Neil #

            Kenny, try this idea. We're obviously speaking about the exact same phenomenon (if that word can be used) and 'Wrath' is the situation seen from man's vantage point, whilst 'Righteousness' is the same scene viewed from God's vantage point.

            Just a thought.

            August 3, 2013 at 1:14 AM
  12. I'm not sure that this is quite fair to what actually took place at the PCUSA. I don't deny the liberalism that exists there. My home church left the PCUSA and I agreed with and still agree with that decision.

    But to be uncomfortable with the idea that the wrath of God is satisfied by putting Christ on the cross such that God is punishing the Son in our place is not to be liberal or unorthodox. This was not the teaching of the Church for 1,000 years until Anselm and later Calvin. C.S. Lewis shied away from this description in Narnia. None of these people had any problem with God's wrath. You are free to think that the early Church, and Lewis, is wrong for not describing the atonement in terms of God punishing the Son – but there is nothing new about such a perspective. The Christus Victor model is an important part of Christian tradition.

    Do we know that the PCUSA committee is uncomfortable with God's wrath in general, or merely that they were uncomfortable with a hymn that says that God punishes the Son in our place, an idea that many orthodox Christians deny? From what I have read, it looks like the latter is the case. And that is different from being liberal or a heretic.

    I go into this into an article I write here, if anyone is interested: http://toomuchlovenathanaelkyle.blogspot.com/2013

    August 1, 2013 at 10:16 PM Reply
    • Kevin O'Neil #

      Well-said, S.Kyle.

      August 2, 2013 at 3:34 AM Reply
  13. lyn #

    Kevin,

    The problem with stating that righteousness and wrath are interchangeable is this – when God's righteousness and holiness are profaned by sin, He responds in wrath. Wrath is a result of righteousness being broken, an 'effect' of the 'cause'. God avenged His righteousness by pouring out wrath on His own Son. So the Getty's lyrics seem to be correct.

    A. W. Pink wrote an excellent book on the attributes of God, which includes His wrath. I invite you to read, if you haven't already, the chapter on God's wrath – pbministriesdotorg/books/pink/Attributes/attrib_16.htm

    We are in agreement as far as the reason behind the opposition to wrath; may God richly bless you this day brother.

    August 3, 2013 at 4:27 AM Reply
    • Kevin O'Neil #

      Lyn,

      Thankyou for taking the trouble to reply. This subject is both complex and sensitive. You are all obviously devout and sincere followers of Christ, of that I have no doubt, and I hope you feel similarly toward me. We are in general agreement, thank God.

      I have just deleted a longish reply to you, out of consideration for both of us! I find this whole subject both provocative and disturbing.

      Suffice it to say that, if I were speaking on this theme of Christ's death being a satisfaction of God's wrath, I would accompany it with a great deal of explanation for these reasons:

      1. To avoid confusion with the pagan beliefs of propitiating irascible gods. An unworthy idea altogether!

      2. To avoid attributing to God an emotion (anger) which is a passing and all too-sinful feeling in our own hearts. His anger is an inevitable consequence of His righteousness, it is a glory, not a passing feeling, but an aspect of His eternal attribute of righteousness. Like the term 'jealousy', another glory, it needs careful expounding to avoid unworthy thoughts about God.

      3. To avoid the other unworthy and repugnant thought that can actually set the Father in opposition to the Son. An immature believer can easily begin thinking that the love of the Son prevents the wrath of the Father wreaking havoc on us! We know this to be totally incorrect, but the immature can be stumbled because of the words Wrath – Satisfaction – and, possibly, Propitiation. I don't say, don't use them, but give clear teaching on the subject when they are used.

      By the way, your term 'avenged' stung me like a bee. This, to me, is an example of just how highly-sensitive and even perilous this subject can be. 'Avenged' is a term that I would certainly not use, it has far too many human connotations. All the other terms I would be happy to use but with full clarification, seeking to uplift and exalt the Holy God and, by so doing, raise the listeners hearts and minds closer to the sublime. The fear of love, loving fear, a glimpse of His Majesty.

      I recognise a sister in the Lord, God bless you. And thankyou for the reading recommendation.

      August 3, 2013 at 6:29 AM Reply
  14. This is one of my favorites too, and it definitely lines up with Scripture. The part about the wrath of God being satisfied when every sin was laid on Christ brings me to remember the following passage: "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him….[the Lord made] His soul an offering for sin….He poured out His soul unto death….and He bore the sin of many". (Isaiah 53:10-12)

    August 11, 2013 at 1:56 PM Reply
  15. John #

    Is anyone aware of Satan's tactics mixing truth with error? The Getty's are building up the one world religion with their practice of knowingly acting as bridge between "young and old," "Protestant and Catholic." Yes, the liberal church is wrong but so is ecumenism.

    September 3, 2013 at 8:36 AM Reply
    • Sharon #

      Sadly, there is a lot of mixing taking place and a lot of truth & error placed real close together….side-by-side. Similar to a garden…like weeds that manage to pop-up next to the real plant and both look very similar to each other, and it takes a gardener w/ experience to discern the difference.

      Many people like this song….but I can "take it or leave it". I have a bigger concern over the lyrics of one of their latest songs. Some may not have noticed the subtle changes going on w/ their music ministry, but I've detected some changes from when they started here in the Cleveland area at Alistair Begg's church and when they moved on to Nashville Tennessee.

      The enemy's tactics haven't changed over time….just the costume.

      September 3, 2013 at 1:25 PM Reply

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