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‘The wrath of God was satisfied’ loses hymn its place in new book

09 August 2013


THE popular Evangelical hymn "In Christ alone", which was sung at the Archbishop of Canterbury's enthronement service ( News, 28 March), has not been included in a new collection of hymns because it contains a line about the satisfaction of God's wrath.

The hymn was considered by the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song (PCOCS) for inclusion in a hymnal that is due to be published this year by the Presbyterian Church of the United States (PCUSA), Glory to God.

Writing in The Christian Century, in May, Mary Louise Bringle, the Chair of the PCOCS, said that the committee had initially voted for "In Christ alone" by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, to be included in the hymn book. It intended for the hymn to be published with the line, "Till on that cross as Jesus died The love of God was magnified."

She wrote: "In the process of clearing copyrights for the hymnal we discovered that this version of the text would not be approved by the authors, as it was considered too great a departure from their original words: "as Jesus died The wrath of God was satisfied." We were faced, then, with a choice: to include the hymn with the authors' original language or to remove it from our list."

The PCOCS voted by nine to six against including "In Christ alone" in the hymnal with the original lyrics, "with deep regret over losing its otherwise poignant and powerful witness". The prevalent view of the committee was that it did not wish "to perpetuate . . . the view that the cross is primarily about God's need to assuage God's anger".

Writing in the Church Times in 2010, the then Precentor of Salisbury Cathedral, Canon Jeremy Davies said that he found it "very difficult to sing" the line about God's wrath being satisfied ( Features, 24 September 2010). "Are we really to believe that the angry God, propitiated by a blameless victim, is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?"

Writing on the Fulcrum website in 2007, Dr Tom Wright, a former Bishop of Durham, recommended that the line be changed to: "Till on that cross as Jesus died The love of God was satisfied."

There was a danger, he argued, of people presenting "over-simple stories with an angry God and a loving Jesus, with a God who demands blood and doesn't much mind whose it is as long as it's innocent. You'd have thought people would notice that this flies in the face of John's and Paul's deep-rooted theology of the love of the triune God: not 'God was so angry with the world that he gave us his son' but 'God so loved the world that he gave us his son'."

The Revd Steve Chalke, a prominent Baptist minister, was criticised by some Evangelicals, in 2004, for describing the penal substitutionary model of the atonement as "a form of cosmic child abuse - a vengeful Father, punishing his Son" ( News, 15 October 2004).

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