The dispute over dropping a beloved Christian song from a new Presbyterian hymnal has widened into a multi-denominational tussle, with Baptists joining the fray.
At issue are various Christian doctrines of the atonement, which attempt to explain why Jesus died and whether his death satisfies God’s wrath over humankind’s sinfulness. But some Christians warn that emphasizing these doctrines may have the unintended consequence of turning God into an angry deity who had to be appeased by shedding Jesus’ blood.
That’s the view taken by the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song. The committee removed the hymn “In Christ Alone” from the new Presbyterian Church (USA) hymnal after the song’s co-authors, Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, refused to change a line about God’s wrath being satisfied.
Bob Terry, editor of The Alabama Baptist newspaper, stepped into a theological landmine when he wrote an editorial saying Presbyterians got it right. Terry said he believes Jesus’ death paid the price for sin. But the song’s lyrics went too far.
“Sometimes Christians carelessly make God out to be some kind of ogre whose angry wrath overflowed until the innocent Jesus suffered enough to calm Him down,” Terry wrote.
That editorial, which ran earlier this month, touched a nerve.