‘Wrath of God’ Keeps Popular Worship Song Out of 10,000-Plus Churches
A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) committee desired to add “In Christ Alone” to the denomination’s new hymnal, Glory to God, set to be released this fall. But it firstrequested permission to avoid theological controversy by altering the modern hymn’s lyrics from “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied” to “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.”
However, authors Keith Getty and Stuart Townend rejected the proposal. So the committee voted six to nine to bar the hymn.
“The song has been removed from our contents list, with deep regret over losing its otherwise poignant and powerful witness,” committee chair Mary Louise Bringle told The Christian Century. The “view that the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger” would have a negative impact on worshippers’ education, according to Bringle.
In a widely-circulated response to the PCUSA that the Gettys called “spot on” on their Facebook page, Timothy George argued that although debating doctrine through hymns is not a new phenomenon, failing to recognize God’s capacity for wrath can effectively trivialize God’s power. “God’s love is not sentimental; it is holy. It is tender, but not squishy,” he wrote. “It involves not only compassion, kindness, and mercy beyond measure … but also indignation against injustice and unremitting opposition to all that is evil.”
Russell Moore observed in the Washington Post that singing about doctrines such as God’s wrath serves as a direct reminder of God’s mercy to Christians.