Tuesday, October 26, 2010


In perhaps coining a new word, I want to think for a moment or two about orthodox doxology - or as I've put it, orthodoxology. What I'm trying to get at is the oft neglected subject of our hymn singing and praise of our Heavenly Father - is what we sing correct, sound doctrine; in other words, are we orthodox in our doxology?

The presenting reason came about last week at the clergy conference. During one of the sessions, we were being led by the American team from our partner diocese. We were about to sing the Getty Townend classic 'In Christ Alone', but the lady playing the keyboard drew our attention to an alteration to the well known words, asking us to be careful to sing what was in the powerpoint screen words.

What had changed? As suspected, the second verse had been changed from:

'Til on that cross, as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied...

Instead, the new version stated:

'Til on that cross, as Jesus died,
The price of sin was satisfied...

Several thoughts crossed my mind. First of all, is it ethical / legally permissible to change the lyrics of a copyrighted song?

But more importantly, what are the altered lyrics really saying? Had Getty and Townend written 'the price of sin was satisfied' it would have been fine - but given that they didn't decide on that option, but affirmed the wrath of God which had to be satisfied to make atonement for our sins, what is being said when the words are changed?

Is it an attempt to ignore or brush over the wrath of God? Are we trying to deny one of the essential attributes of the character of God? Is it to be more politically correct?

The price of sins was being paid on the cross as Jesus died - but at the same time, the price of sin was so that the wrath of God against those sins could be satisfied. Isn't that what Romans is showing us - that 'the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men' (1:18), but that wrath is satisfied, turned away from us because it has been borne by the Lord Jesus on the cross - 'whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith' (3:25) - so that we are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is it Christ Jesus.

Or as that great wee chapter from Isaiah puts it:

I will give thanks to you, O LORD,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.
(Isaiah 12:1)

The wrath of God is not something to take lightly. It took the death of the Lord Jesus to deal with it. We can't quickly ignore it. It is both vital for understanding what the Lord Jesus has done for us (orthodoxy), and also to respond appropriately with praise (doxology) - or in my new favourite made-up word, Orthodoxology!

[Update: having written this last night, I came across a good cover version of In Christ Alone recorded by Adam Young of Owl City - in which the whole second verse is missing! H/T Pizza Preacher]

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