February 04, 2016. As a bonus for today, we’ll be taking a look at “In Christ Alone” by Keith & Kristyn Getty. During a phone call with my brother last night, he mentioned Keith & Kristyn Getty, but didn’t specify a particular song, so I grabbed the first one I recognized and liked.
As with the DiM we posted earlier today, this song earns our approval for bearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ plainly within the lyrics. It is a modern hymn in that it was written this century (2001). It follows the hymn format with 4 verses, no chorus or bridge. Let’s listen to it, read through the lyrics and then I want to highlight some controversy surrounding this song and a decision by a hymnal approval committee decided to drop it from their hymnal. I think the discussion is fascinating and worth noting regardless of which side you take on the matter.
Keith and Kristyn Getty Music Video
Lyrics (via WorshipTogether.com)
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my songthis 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 standVerse 2In 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
‘Til 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 liveVerse 3
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 ChristVerse 4
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
’til He returns or calls me home
here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll standWriter(s): Keith Getty, Stuart Townend
Theme(s): Peace & Hope , Easter
Ministry(s): ThankYou Music
CCLI #: 3350395
Scripture Reference(s): Philippians 3:7-11
I really like this song, and was frankly very impressed to learn it had been written so recently. If I’m missing an older hymn upon which this version is based, please message me or leave a link in the comments below. As I was searching for the background of this hymn, I found an interesting report in USA Today entitled “Presbyterians’ decision to drop hymn stirs debate” by Bob Smietana, EDT August 5, 2013.
The committee putting together a new Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) hymnal dropped the popular modern hymn “In Christ Alone” because the song’s authors refused to change a phrase about the wrath of God.
The original lyrics say that “on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” The Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song wanted to substitute the words, “the love of God was magnified.”
There are a couple of things I find fascinating about this. Firstly, that there are still denominations working through their hymnody ensuring that every song approved for corporate worship is in keeping with their confessions and doctrine. That excellent. That needs to happen. There needs to be a process in place for ensuring that every song, sermon, teaching, doctrine, and tradition is examined against God’s Word for Truth and soundness. This is something that should be a strength of being part of a denomination, that as a body of believers we confess the same faith. This is something that the “non-denominational” movement explicitly avoids. They refuse to accept a system of examination of doctrine and refuse to be identified by specific confessions. I think that’s an error, because no denomination of Christianity can come ex-nihilo for we have already the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude). Your doctrine had to come from somewhere. Every denomination claims their doctrine comes from God’s Word, the key is in knowing how, where, and whether or not it can be faithfully exegeted from the text. A church can avoid having a label for a while, but its doctrine has origins, and those origins are either from the Spirit of Truth or spirits of error.
So, regarding this Presbyterian Church committee, they opted to drop the song for the refusal of its authors to allow the phrase “the wrath of God was satisfied” found in the second verse to be changed. As we read later in the article, it wasn’t due to the word “wrath”; rather, it was due to the word “satisfied”. Please understand, dear reader, that to suggest that the song was dropped because of a single word is to over-simplify what is taking place. It wasn’t merely the word, it was the theology being expressed in this wording that the committee took issue with. Whether you agree or disagree is a next step, but please don’t trivialize the matter by oversimplifying it. The author of this article did well to include comments both for and against:
The Rev. Chris Joiner of First Presbyterian Church in Franklin agrees with that move. He said some of his church members are fans of the song and will be disappointed that it was dropped.
But the words of the song don’t work, he said.
“That lyric comes close to saying that God killed Jesus,” he said. “The cross is not an instrument of God’s wrath.”
But the Rev. Scott Sauls, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, disagrees. He said the word “satisfied” means that Jesus paid the whole price for sins.
“There’s no more work to be done,” said Sauls, whose congregation is part of the more conservative Presbyterian Church in America. “It is finished.”
There is more discussion in the article regarding blogger responses, but they are generalities and engage in ad hominem and strawman attacks (to be expected in a section dedicated to “controversies”). The quotes above are substantive differences of interpretation of the theology being expressed in the wording of the song. What do you think about the issue?
Now, regarding the scripture reference cited by WorshipTogether… I’m not buying it on this song. Which now makes me wonder, “who’s putting those scripture references on the website, the artist or someone else”? Let’s look at the passage cited, and then let’s look at the passage Kristyn Getty reads at the beginning of the YouTube Music Video.
Philippians 3:7-11 (ESV)
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
While it fits with the ascribed theme of the song, it doesn’t seem to me that this song was written with this specific passage in mind. I could be wrong, of course, but I’d like to move on to the passage being read in the video. Actually, I’ll highlight what was actually read, but I want to show its immediate context, because I really think this to be a better citation for this song.
Colossians 1:11-20 (ESV)
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Personally, I love the song and struggle to see the problem in the line as written. I’ll chalk it up to my not being Presbyterian. I commend the committee for doing the work of evaluating their church’s worship, despite my disagreement with their conclusion on this particular song. Theology matters. What you sing and pray matters (Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi). Soli Deo Gloria.
Romans 16:24-27 (ESV) | Doxology
25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
In Christ Jesus,