Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Presbyterians Remove "In Christ Alone" From Hymnal

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The Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Songs for the Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to remove the hymn "In Christ Alone" because of one phrase in the hymn.

The Committee wants to revise the lyrics, but the writers of the hymn won't agree to the revision.

So it is being removed.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, says the Congregational Songs Committee decision is evidence of why churches are leaving the PC (USA).

She said, "For the denomination to decide intentionally to remove "In Christ Alone" from the hymnal, is in my view, bare evidence of serious erosion of the denomination's theology related to the atonement."

What phrase caused them to make this decision?

Not all readers are Presbyterians. While this decision reveals a concerning trend in the Presbyterian Church (USA) it also highlights a troublesome trend in a number of our Christian churches.

LaBerge says, "God chooses to reveal about Himself what he chooses to reveal. And what God has chosen to reveal about His nature and character in the Scriptures includes His anger toward the reality of sin; and the manifestation of that through what Scripture describes as wrath."

The phrase in question speaks of "the wrath of God."

The Committee wants to revise the words "as Jesus died / the wrath of God was satisfied" to "Till on that cross as Jesus died / the love of God was magnified."

LaBerge says this is stripping away the acceptance of the full nature and character of God, because there are parts that we don't like."

She says believers "fall into a very real and dangerous spiritual trap of creating a religion for ourselves---a god of our own making."

A god of our own making is indeed a trend within modern day Christianity.

As our culture becomes more and more narcissistic and less informed biblically, we tend to take on the role of God. This leads to redefining theology and fundamental biblical, theological beliefs in favor of a more welcoming, non-challenging "truth" that accepts most all behaviors and beliefs.

Christians are becoming "conformed" to the belief system of the world, rather than a "transforming" presence in our culture.

LeBerge says she thinks the exclusion of this hymn has a lot to do with modern theological trends.

She thinks this revision seems to have been more focused "on a theology that is more in vogue, which would be a theology that downplays the necessity of the atonement."

Indeed it is.

If there are no absolutes, man is not a sinner, therefore does not need a savior---he needs an encourager or life coach.

And if "Love Wins Out" as Rob Bell suggests in his book of that title, there is no Hell, therefore no real consequences to our behavior and lifestyle choices.

The deceptive notion of creating a god in our own image---of our own making, is not new to the Presbyterians, or to people in general.

You will recall that God's people decided to make a "god" in their own image in the absence of Moses. (Exodus 32).

That did not work out well. Creating gods or trying to be god never does.

Romans 1:18-25 is the profile of man in rebellion toward God.

Toward that profile, Scripture says (v-18), "For the wrath of God is revealed...against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth..."

From futile thoughts and darkened, hardened, foolish hearts (v-21), "They changed the glory of the incorruptable God into an image made of corruptible man..." and (v-25), "exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator..."

Joshua, who spoke to his contemporaries, is also speaking to this generation, and is saying "choose you this day whom you will serve."

Will we choose a god of our own making who no longer believes that marriage is between a man and a woman as He did at Creation.

Will we choose a man made god who believes in a woman's choice to abort an unwanted child more than He believes in the sanctity of life---life that He Himself created?

Many in the Presbyterian church are leaving the PC (USA) for these kinds of reasons.

I believe this is a time when all Christians should reconsider "whom you will serve" and re-evaluate not only our church affiliations, but our own patterns of belief.

Are we being conformed to, or are we transforming our culture? Are we investing our gifts, time and resources toward the advancement of God's kingdom or that of a revised man made god?

Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Informed. Be Prayerful. Be Active. Be Blessed.


  1. God gave believers the Book of Psalms for singing. What better way to worship the Lord than singing his inspired, unchanging Words! And Christ is ever present in the Psalms. Visit a Reformed Presbyterian Church, which practices exclusive Psalm singing.

  2. And what, pray tell, do you do with the other 65 books of the Bible? God's Word is complete!

    Mountlake Terrace

  3. Until we realize the impact God's righteous wrath has on our sin we will never be able to fully appreciate the mercy and love that God had when He sent His Son to die for our sins. Romans 1:18 explains why God's wrath is on all unrighteousness and wickedness and makes the doxology in chapter 11 extolling His mercy to all who believe so amazing. Paul's doxology is filled with wonder and joy and Paul continues in chapter 12, in view of God's mercy, to urge us to follow Christ's example and offer our lives as a living sacrifice. Paul then continues with how we do it through the next few chapters. Without a full appreciation of God's wrath we cannot fully appreciate His mercy and and love. And by the way, for the Reformed Presbyteran who commented first, the songbook of Psalms mentions God's wrath 25 times and His anger 27 times. The problem with a lot of our Christian singing is that we select the verses from Psalms on God's love, joy, kindness, etc. and leave out His wrath and anger. I believe "In Christ Alone" is a solid, Holy Spirit inspired hymn and every time I sing it I am reduced to total gratefulness for what Christ did and is doing for us.

  4. Are they going to change " I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes before the Father except by me"? What hubris to think that they can change God's word and think He is pleased.

    We just covered "the wheat and tares" at Bible study, what a terrible tragedy to follow false prophets and to be found wanting in the end.

    Craig in Lacey

  5. Great article! Thanks for keeping us all informed!!!


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