Thursday, August 8, 2013

Expecting the facts

As I was browsing the Internet yesterday I came across a blog placed on the Presbyterian hymnal Project called “In Christ Alone.”  Recently the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song decided not to include the hymn “In Christ Alone” in the new Presbyterian Hymnal.   According to the blog the committee “had hoped to include a previously published version of “In Christ Alone” that altered a line in the second stanza from “the wrath of God was satisfied” to “the love of God was magnified.”
A few months ago our new congregation had sung this song.  When I met with Kristel Peters, our Music Director, a few days later I shared that I was a bit uncomfortable with the lyric, “the wrath of God was satisfied.”  We had a healthy conversation about lyrics and the importance of having a broad range of views shared in the music we sing at Chain of Lakes.  We’ve sung the song since that conversation, and I anticipate that we will sing it again.
When I found out about the Hymnal Committee’s action I sent an E-mail to Kristel.  I was surprised to learn that she knew about the issue.  Some folks had expressed concern about the action and the theology of the Presbyterian church.
The controversy was generated by a blog written by Timothy George at: 
Adam Copeland, who is on the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Son wrote an excellent piece about the decision at:
I shared with Kristel that if I had been on the committee I would have voted to keep the song in the hymnal, but I can certainly understand the concern as it is the same one that I had shared in my meeting with her.
However what pains me is the desire to brush the Presbyterian Church (USA) as a group of people who don’t believe in the substitionary atonement of Jesus.  Because one song is not included in the hymnal?  Really?  When other songs that have that theology are shared in the Hymnal?  Really?  Presbyterians don’t believe in the Bible because one song was taken out of the Hymnal?  Really? 
Many Presbyterians believe in the substitionary atonement of Jesus.  This theology is expressed in the new song book.
But even if we didn’t, would that somehow prevent us from being followers of Jesus Christ?  As Presbyterians we confess that Jesus is Lord and Savior.  This powerful statement connects us with followers of Christ who travel in other denominations.  Jesus was very clear in John 17:21 that he desires that his followers be one.  Our oneness comes from our expression that he is our Lord and Savior, not from our view of atonement.
I realize it is easy to be critical of the PC(USA).  We’re going through difficult times.  Many conservative Presbyterians are leaving.  I am very sad about this.   

However if people are going to be critical, they should have their facts in order.
The foundation of this controversy is simply incorrect.  Though we may be a punching bag, I think it’s only fair to expect the truth from our critics.


Neil Craigan said...

But what does it mean when we say Jesus is savior and how does he save? This is where our theology of atonement comes into play because it explains for us how Jesus dealt with the sin of humanity.

Chainoflakesncd said...

Good questions, Neil. It's hard to put into exact words something that is so magnificent. How do we put into words a perfect sunset? It's hard to find exact language to describe the work of the Almighty. I like what Don Mc Kim said about the meaning of the cross in his book "Presbyterian Questions, Presbyterian Answers." He wrote that the cross means that Christ is victor, that the cross is satisfaction for sin, and that the cross is an example to follow. (Page 35)