Controversy underscores importance of theology in hymns

hymnalBy Ken Camp

Worship leaders seldom welcome controversy. But some church musicians delight in the dust-up one line in a hymn created earlier this year.

The committee on congregational song for the Presbyterian Church, USA, wanted to include a version of the contemporary hymn “In Christ Alone” that altered a line in the second stanza from “the wrath of God was satisfied” to read “the love of God was magnified.” When the copyright holders, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, declined, the committee voted not to include the song with its original lyrics.

“I rejoice in the controversy,” said Terry York, professor of Christian ministry and church music at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary.

York, who has published more than 40 hymns and served as project coordinator for the 1991 edition of The Baptist Hymnal, sees the controversy as evidence of increased interest in the theology taught in worship songs. And he welcomes that kind of serious consideration.



Comments 2

  • My doctoral thesis dealt with the importance of theology in the hymns we sing: “THE POWER OF SUNG THEOLOGY: ENCOUNTERING GOD THROUGH CONGREGATIONAL SONG.” This has long been a neglected aspect of worship and Christian education. One reason is that most ministers do not have any training in music, hymnody, the various parts of the hymnal, and the theology that is sung within the hymns in worship. Every seminary should require Hymnody 101 for those going into the ministry. With all of the worship wars between traditional and contemporary worship music, a minister MUST have some knowledge about what congregations are singing (theology) and how the congregations are singing (style). I was absolutely astounded that the new PCUSA hymnal left out one of the most beautiful contemporary hymns written: “In Christ Alone.” Evidently the committee members did not take into consideration that Jesus went to the cross, not only to bear our sins but to satisfy the wrath of God for all of the sins of humanity. And God certainly had and has every right to feel wrath for the sinful state of humanity. Again, this is a watering down of the theology presented to us in God’s Word. It is just another sign that the PCUSA is moving further and further away from the authority of the Bible. No wonder so many churches are choosing to leave this apostate denomination. God help us all.

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