Saturday, May 04, 2013

Conviction in Songwriting

Looking through the bulletin as we waited for church to begin last Sunday, my wife noted that we would be singing the contemporary song "In Christ Alone."  Noting the names of the songwriters, Lanette remarked that she didn't know who Keith Getty was, but that she liked all of the songs that she had noticed by him.
Now that I know something more about the songwriters, I like them even more.
The second stanza of the song is as follows:

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.

These words convey much important theological truth regarding Christ's incarnation, passion, and vicarious and propiitiatory death -- to say his death was vicarious is to say that he represented others in dying for their sins; to say that it was propitiatory means that he suffered the wrath of God due to others because of their sins.

According to an article that appeared recently in the liberal magazine, "Christian Century," a committee of the heterodox Presbyterian Church (USA) planned to include this song in an updated hymnal; however, they were relying on a version of the song that replaced the words "the wrath of God was satisfied" with an alternative phrase only referencing the love of God. As God's "gift of love" is already mentioned in the stanza, the purpose of the substitution is not to add the concept of love, but to remove the reference to propitiation, which, while being a central concept to historic orthodoxy, offends liberal Christian sensibilities. The hymnal committee contacted Getty Music, which refused to allow the alteration on the basis that it represented too great a departure from the original meaning of the lyrics. In the face of that refusal, the Committee removed the song from the update.

I am sometimes critical of contemporary Christian worship -- and some people assume that means that I am wedded to old styles, but that is not true. Substance, not style, is what matters, and too much of contemporary music is shallow drivel, or worse. We need more writers like Getty and Townend to supplement the songbooks of the historic faith.   Hat Tip:  The Aquila Report

No comments: