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The wrath of God

UPDATED four times
and now with a related post: God’s wrath – satisfied?

At our recent synod meeting, one of the songs was Stuart Townend and Keith Getty’s In Christ alone with the words:

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

Those words as understood by many (if not most) in that room are heresy. The understanding of those words by many (most) who enthusiastically sing this in services around the planet is heretical.

The understanding is that 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.

This understanding is heresy.

Our diocesan synodical singing of these words comes on the heels of a diocesan-wide study through Lent of a booklet The Praying Life, written by two of the top and most influential theologians in our diocese, Peter Carrell and Lynda Patterson. In this they wrote:

‘This cup’ particularly points to the cross as the place on which the wrath of God against sin was borne by Jesus as the final and full sacrifice for the sin of the world.

And Peter reinforces Lynda’s and his point on his blog:

If Jesus were not raised then we would not know whether God’s wrath was satisfied. That Jesus was raised demonstrated that God’s wrath was satisfied. The cup had been drained by Jesus.

The wrath-of-God-satisfied approach has been canonised as our diocesan soteriology (understanding of how we are saved).

Let me stress I am not saying Lynda and Peter are heretics. I am not taking (what is here called) a “Title D” process against them. Theologians have minds wired so that words for them can mean something quite different to what they appear to mean to the rest (majority) of us.

So here I am dealing with the God-has-anger-management-issues, straightforward understanding of “on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied”.

It is not in the Bible. Show me anywhere in the Bible that explicitly states Jesus’ death satisfies God’s wrath.

God is not divided. There is not some sort of internal battle within God – of His wrath versus His love.

Does God need Jesus’ death in order to love us?

No.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”
God loved us and sent his Son.”

Whenever a community is required to sing In Christ alone it needs to be accompanied by teaching that what it seems to say, and what many people think it means, is heresy.

Please go and vote what you think the words of the hymn, and similar words mean.

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We have agreements in place not to use uninclusive language. This song could have been put to one side because of that (“no scheme of man”). Other songs and hymns have their language altered. Altering songs and hymns without permission of the copyright holder is another discussion altogether. Some people choose to change the heretical tendency of this song to,

Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The love of God was magnified

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We have an incredibly lengthy, complex process for agreeing what words we will say. And none whatsoever for what words we will sing. Other churches have an agreed list of hymns and songs. We do not. If you want to express new or different ideas – sing them. Of interest to me is that it is what we sing that goes in much deeper than what is said. That too is another discussion altogether.

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Thankfully, we are saved by God through Jesus Christ our saviour. We are not saved by a theory of salvation.

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My friend and fellow blogger Peter Carrell has himself produced four posts on The wrath of God was satisfied.

UPDATE: Peter has now written a blog post in response to this post. It is (unsurprising to me) an orthodox exposition of the lines. If this is how all who sing these lines understand them, then this post has been a waste of time and hot air nonsense. However, the comments below, and here indicate that the interpretation I think many have, in fact is the interpretation that is held. Peter asks for an interpretation of “cup” in Luke 22:42. I quickly reach to the first commentary at hand:

cup is a reference to Jesus’ destiny as described in this Gospel: he will die in Jerusalem because God has sent him to do kingdom ministry for the needy, oppressed, and unfortunate of this world (see 4:43; 9:51; 13:13). Jesus will continue to drink of that cup as he heals a servant (22:51), forgives his enemies (22:34), and promises a place in paradise to a repentant evildoer (23:39-43).

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UPDATE #2 & 3 (May 4&5):
Peter has this morning written a second post connected to this one.

I was taken by David Earle’s comment on facebook, particularly as many who would advocate singing “Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied” would argue for worship that is immediately accessible to new people:

there is a really important point at the start of Bosco’s post which has got lost in the argument – that the words of songs should be read to mean what they mean in plain English to the person who has just walked in the door and should not require a course in NT theology to explain their deep and hidden meanings.

I also want to stress again his point “that God is beyond our human understanding”.

Others have also joined in the blogging:
Mark Harris The Wrath of God (WOG), and a New Zealand theological debate.
Laura Sykes “The Wrath Of God Was Satisfied?”: The Revd Bosco Peters
June Butler “THE WRATH OF GOD WAS SATISFIED?”
David Ould So much anger over the Wrath of God
David Ould on Stand Firm So Much Anger Over the Wrath of God

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UPDATE #4 7 August
“The Presbyterian Church (USA) dropped the popular hymn “In Christ Alone” because the song’s authors refused to change a phrase about the wrath of God.”

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