Wrath of GodI would like you to answer a question. In Stuart Townend and Keith Getty’s song In Christ alone there are the words:

“Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied”

What do those words in that song mean? What is the plain sense of those words?

I’m not asking you whether you agree with the idea in the words. I’m not asking you what you think the words should be. I’m not asking you what you believe is going on (theologically) as Jesus died.

For example, I think the answer to the question is (a) below. I don’t agree with (a), but (a) is closest to what the plain reading of the lines say to me. You may think otherwise, or you may agree with me. Please vote.

Have you voted above? OK – now you can read on.

I blogged last Friday on my worry that words like

“Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied”

can too easily be understood as

God (The Father) was angry at us in our sinfulness. And that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us. And that this now enables God (The Father) to love us.

or, if you like, as

“God holding a cricket bat threatening to hit us and Jesus stands between saying, ‘Don’t hit them, hit me.’”

Peter Carrell’s good point in a comment was that my post was missing a key piece of evidence for my concern to be justified. I needed to survey what people actually understand by the words. It would be fun to do that at synod (the way I started that post), but I suspect we will be discussing post-quakes planning and would not take too kindly to a call for time to exegete a hymn. But that is hardly my primary point. My post isn’t primarily about our synod – it is more generally how people commonly understand these and similar words.

I have no idea how the vote above will go. I am not sure at what exact percentage we should be concerned about the song’s words, and words like them.

A 5% vote for (a) might be fine? Acceptable collateral damage for keeping a well-loved hymn which is 95% successful at conveying the message it intends.

20% or more voting for (a) and I think there’s a serious issue with using those words or similar words.

What about even 10%?

Some people (un)surprisingly could not read what, on Friday, I had actually written. They were predestined to be against whatever I wrote (even critical of my using the elsewhere-ubiquitous greeting “Christ is risen!” in the Easter Season! LOL!) Even though I stressed again, and again, and even yet again that the words themselves need not be understood as heresy, some commenters and bloggers seemed incapable of distinguishing between the words and their (mis)understanding. Yet it was the (mis)understanding I was focusing on!

So – if the result is 5% or less for (a) above, I apologise totally and unreservedly to the people defending those and similar words. My post was totally wrong. I was wrong. I’m sorry. If the result is 5% or less for (a) and you voted for (a) as I did – you are obviously thick, as I am. More than 95% can understand what it means correctly, plainly, and clearly. You and I are just being obtuse.

If it’s 10%… well…

But – if the result is 20% or more for (a)… maybe some apology could be forthcoming from those who attacked me so vehemently… Maybe some rethinking on your part… A lot of those who advocate for this song also advocate for immediately intelligible worship. Look at the percentage who misunderstand this song and, with it, the very heart of the Gospel.

If the result is 20% or more I hold firmly to my contention that whenever In Christ alone is sung it needs to be accompanied by teaching that what for many it seems to say, and what many people think it means, is heresy. An asterisk with an orthodox explanation should be a minimum.


These are good related posts off this site:
An Orthodox approach: Therapeutic Substitutionary Atonement
Did Jesus’ Death Satisfy God’s Wrath?
More on an Orthodox approach (thanks to a contributor on facebook): The river of fire.

OK, if you cheated, and got to the end of this post without voting – go back and vote now. You are being watched!

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