The Conservative Resurgence in Alabama and the Getty’s In Christ Alone

When denominations that question the authority of the Scriptures and some of its clear teachings reject In Christ Alone by the Getty’s we should not be surprised. However, when SBC Convention leaders question the content of that song and say they will not sing the line in question (“Till on that cross as Jesus died/The wrath of God was satisfied”) this should be alarming for Alabama and Southern Baptists.

This is exactly what has happened in a recent article entitled, “Why Disagree about the Words of a Hymn?” penned by The Alabama Baptist’s editor Dr. Bob Terry. There are many avenues one could take to disagree with this article but the one that is most striking to me is that he seems to indicate we either need to emphasize his love or his wrath when he writes, “But God is not the enemy. He is our seeking Friend (Luke 15). That is why I prefer to focus on His love evidenced at Calvary rather than on His wrath.” This is problematic because it makes it seem like we have to choose one or the other, when both are on display at the Cross and in the song. The problem is that the author seems to deny or at least minimize Penal Substitution. This type of theology (though very common in liberal circles who get weak stomachs talking about wrath) minimizes God’s just anger toward sin, his holiness, the great offense of sin, and in so doing disrespects the work of Christ in becoming the propitiation for our sins.

There is much more that could be said here but others have addressed this better than I can:

–       Timothy George’s No Squishy Love

–       Russell Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Wrath of God?

–       Jason Duesing Christ Has Defeated Every Sin: Another Hymn Edited

Why is this a big deal? As you will see in the articles above, the gospel itself is at stake. And if we are not unified around the key elements of the gospel then cooperative missions is impossible. In a way, this article is a stinging reminder that the Conservative Resurgence is not over. In a similar way to how the conservatives did not want to give CP dollars to liberal institutions in the past, we hear many Southern Baptists question why give CP dollars to state conventions that still have vestiges of moderate theology. Some state conventions do not even ask their employees to sign the BFM2000, which affirms Penal Substitution. This sort of article (and this is not some minor disagreement like whether we disagree on the time of the rapture) just adds to the uneasiness of many to give CP dollars to state conventions where some of that money will go into the hand of liberal institutions and leaders. The SBC was started for the propagation of the gospel through cooperative missions; if the gospel is lost we have nothing to take to the World!

I am thankful that we sang In Christ Alone last week unedited in my local church gathering. I sang the line in question with joy and celebration because it reminds me of my former self, the wrath I deserved, but more than that the work of the Savior I love on my behalf! And it calls to mind the truths of Isaiah 53 – so we are going to keep signing that line because in it is good news, the best news you can ever hear!

[4] Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

[5] But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

[6] All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

[7] He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.

[8] By oppression and judgment he was taken away;

and as for his generation, who considered

that he was cut off out of the land of the living,

stricken for the transgression of my people?

[9] And they made his grave with the wicked

and with a rich man in his death,

although he had done no violence,

and there was no deceit in his mouth.

[10] Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;

he has put him to grief;

when his soul makes an offering for guilt,

he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

[11] Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

make many to be accounted righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities.

[12] Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,

and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,

because he poured out his soul to death

and was numbered with the transgressors;

yet he bore the sin of many,

and makes intercession for the transgressors.

(Isaiah 53:4-12)