The New Worship Wars

Much has been written of late regarding the Presbyterian Church USA’s decision to exclude the wrath of God from their hymnbooks. Language found within the Getty’s song, In Christ Alone, stated that on the cross, “the wrath of God was satisfied.” The PCUSA sought to rewrite the line magnifying God’s love, but the revision was rejected by the authors who determined, correctly, that the wrath of the Father was appeased at the cross.

Dr. Bob Terry, of The Alabama Baptist, recently wrote an article downplaying the entire event, defending the Presbyterians’ decision and explaining how singing about God’s wrath makes him squeamish, and that he’d much rather sing of God’s love. While I wholeheartedly disagree with Dr. Terry (and fear that he is leaning toward, if not embracing, a wholesale abandonment of penal substitutionary atonement), it is encouraging to see a non-Calvinist Baptist come out in support of their Presbyterian brothers and sisters in Christ.

But most encouraging is the reality that, in light of the “worship wars” that dominated the Evangelical landscape over the last 20-ish years, we’re finally fighting over something that matters.

Pianos and guitars and orchestras and drums and choirs and worship teams and praise bands and PowerPoint and hymnbooks were never issues that should have divided us. In fact, the mere reality that such debates created such heat and animosity should embarrass us. That’s akin to arguing over the rearrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic as it sinks.

But, thank God, we are beginning to argue over the right things. Would to God that all churches and denominations (or, all Baptists for that matter) could celebrate the appeasement of a righteous God’s anger toward sin and sinners being satisfied by the pouring out of the Messiah’s blood. In that, his love is magnified.

The theology found in our songs of worship is crucial to our understanding of the God of whom we sing. Most people hear a sermon once, while hearing a song dozens, if not hundreds, of times throughout their lifetime. This is no small matter and is worthy of our attention.

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