Why ‘In Christ Alone’ did not make the cut

This has always struck me as one recent song that sings like the old, theologically robust hymns of Watts and Wesley.

It was interesting to learn, then, about the decision by the Presbyterian Church USA to not include it in its new hymnal because the authors of the hymn would not consent to a wording change.

We had voted for a song from the contemporary Christian canon, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend’s “In Christ Alone.” The text agreed upon was one we had found by studying materials in other recently published hymnals. Its second stanza contained the lines, “Till on that cross as Jesus died / the love of God was magnified.” 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.

11 thoughts on “Why ‘In Christ Alone’ did not make the cut

  1. The authors are to be commended for not permitting a pc driven debasing of the hymn.

  2. This song was also sung at the recent worship service when the new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby took office–at HIS request. As I followed the tweets for the service, a number of people noted that about half the congregation refused to sing the words about God’s wrath.

    Frankly, I am clear that John Wesley would like the author’s words. He emphasized the need for sinners (including Methodists) to “flee from the wrath to come”. I know you have written about this in the past. I am pretty well convinced that our reluctance to consider the wrath of God is one of the reasons the church has lost it’s emphasis on winning souls.

    1. I had not heard the story about Welby. On wrath: I just can’t figure out how to read it out of the Bible. I agree that if you think there are no stakes, you are not likely to be too worried about what you do.

      1. It seems to be easy to read wrath out of the Christian faith. Just ignore the Bible passages and theologies that deal with it. When we begin to take the passages we WANT to ignore seriously, then we may see a positive transformation in ourselves and in our church. My own experience of this involved the “woe” passages of Jesus as he indicted the pharisees for hypocrisy. When I put myself into the place of the pharisees, it was devastating and convicting. It led to my retirement.

  3. And we wonder why the PCUSA is struggling. Something tells me, however, that UMC Hymnal editors would try much the same thing. Kudos to the songwriters. Twice.

  4. Kind of funny. They got so hung up on whether or not God has wrath that they stopped reading the rest of the line. They see it as sad and unfortunate news. “WAS SATISFIED!!!” That line in the song IS the GOOD NEWS!!! Without that, then what’s the point of Jesus’ death?

    1. Some folks find “satisfaction” theories of atonement themselves objectionable. They argue, if I am being fair to what they would say, that God needing or requiring satisfaction via the torture and death of Jesus is contrary to the nature of God. (I’m surely messing this up some.) So, for them, the line about it being satisfied does not remove their objections about the wrath talk.

  5. It teaches the penal substitutionary model of the atonement (or, a substitutionary model at the very least). Presumably, PCUSA hymnal committee members thought that it “excluded” people who leaned on other models of the atonement (priestly-sacrificial and Christos victor, as well as moral-government). Of course, pretty much all of the models of the atonement are present in the Bible (penal substitution is a dominant theme in Romans, and priestly-sacrificial in Hebrews)–so maybe we should be taking it that they are all true, INCLUDING penal substitution.

    Do men receive faith, that saves, because God arbitrarily bestows them with faith? Does God predetermined who will be saved and them cause them to have faith so they can be saved? No and No.

    Faith comes from hearing God’s word preached.

    Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.(NKJV)

    Romans 10:14 How they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?(NKJV)

    Faith comes when men believe the gospel. Faith is not forced on men by God.


    Ephesians 2:8 is used to prove that faith is a gift from God, however, that is not what is says.

    Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God,(NKJV)

    Salvation is the gift from God. Faith is not the gift.

    Mark 16:16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

    Why would Jesus condemn men who do not believe if God is the one who arbitrarily bestows faith on men so they can be saved?

    To have faith that Jesus is the Son of God is a choice. To trust in God is a choice. To believe that God resurrected Jesus from the grave is a choice. To believe that Jesus is both Lord and Christ is a choice. God does not force men to have faith. Saving faith is the not a gift from God. Salvation is the gift from God.


    1. Hear the gospel. Romans 10:17
    2. Believe. John 3:16
    3. Confess. Romans 10:9
    4. Repent. Acts 3:19
    5. Be baptized in water. Acts 2:38

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