Presbyterian Denomination denies the doctrine of the wrath of God by 2/3 vote via hymn deletion

I ran across this article from the "Alabama Baptist" magazine. It is about a fight they are having in the Presbyterian denomination PCUSA over the traditional hymn "In Christ Alone." It is titled Why disagree about the words in a hymn?

Presbyterian USA objected to the lyric in the hymn “Till on that cross as Jesus died/The wrath of God was satisfied”. Huh? Yes indeed, they wanted to change that line referring to God's wrath, to the following: “Till on that cross as Jesus died/The love of God was magnified.”

The writers of the song would not allow the change, so the PresbyterianUSA denomination dropped the song entirely from their hymnal. They "voted 9–6 not to use the song because the theology of the disputed phrase reflected the view of a part of the Presbyterian Church but was not appropriate for the diverse membership as a whole" it is stated in the Alabama Baptist article I linked to above.

Since when is God's wrath not part of the whole counsel of God, profitable for reproof and rebuke? The article included this quote from Professor George:

"Beeson Divinity School Dean Timothy George was more balanced in his reaction. He wrote, “God’s love is not sentimental; it is holy. It is tender but not squishy. It involves not only compassion, kindness and mercy beyond measure, but also indignation against injustice and unremitting opposition to all that is evil.” George cautioned that to ignore God’s wrath can result in “a less than fully biblical construal of who God is and what He has done, especially in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ.”

The author of this article in the 'Alabama Baptist' is Dr. Bob Terry, graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Dr Terry is the President and editor of the Alabama Baptist. Dr Terry has one of the longest tenures as a state Baptist paper editor, 30 years! He wrote in the article,

"Yet there remains a question about whether God was an angry God at Golgotha whose wrath had to be appeased by the suffering of the innocent Jesus. ... "Some popular theologies do hold that Jesus’ suffering appeased God’s wrath. ...That is not how I understand the Bible and that is why I do not sing the phrase “the wrath of God was satisfied” even though I love the song “In Christ Alone.” ... 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." [underline mine].

So you see the problem is not just among Presbyterian-USAs. Dr Terry of the Alabama Baptists went on to parse whether Jesus was the object of reconciliation or the subject, splitting diversionary hairs while diminishing the doctrine of wrath entirely.

The Alabama Baptist is a 170 year old paper that reaches 80,000 homes weekly and has a readership of 200,000 souls. That is quite the voice and quite the influence.

Making the argument about whether Jesus was the object of God's wrath or the subject of it is not a legitimate argument, because we all know that Jesus was not the subject. He endured the wrath not because He was sinful. He was sinless. The subject of the wrathful conversation God was having was with sinful mankind through sinless Jesus. Jesus was the object upon Whom God leveled his anger so that it would be exhausted. [FMI, see Jerry Bridges link below]

If we all agree on the basic tenet that Jesus was certainly not the subject of God's wrath, then that is why we can see that parsing object-subject discussions subtly shifts the conversation away from the proper focus: wrath.

We are the subject of God's wrath. He leveled that wrath against mankind in the Flood, (Genesis 6:6-7) and also against those fallen angels who had sinned with human women, too. (2 Peter 2:4). God again easily could have leveled His wrath against mankind, at any time thereafter, but He chose to place it on and through Jesus, who was the spotless Lamb, so that it will have been satisfied in holiness but exhausted against now-reconciled man.

Yet that is what the Presbyterians were dickering about. Though their committee speaker denies it now, "in an original, more unguarded, account Mary Louise Bringle wrote for the Christian Century, Bringle admits that wrath was the real issue. She admitted that the hymn selection committee argued whether "the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger."

Therefore, the Presbyterian Denomination committee's 2/3 vote is an affirmation of the opposite: they believe that the cross is NOT primarily about God's anger.

So often these days (not our local congregation, thankfully) we do not hear sermons from preachers speaking of God's wrath, or sin, or judgment. Satan twists doctrine by suppressing unwanted truths to those who want their ears tickled just as much as he perverts doctrine through changing it, and the Presbyterians are only too happy to comply.

The foundational tenets of the faith are being attacked on every side, either through overt perversion of subtle suppression. This is nothing new. Immediately after the resurrection, the resurrection was denied, Jesus's deity was denied, grace was denied, Jesus human-ness was denied. Today, hell is being denied, God's wrath is ignored in favor of His love, the Trinity is under fire, and the reason for the cross is being muddled. It's a good reminder that satan is always at work in every aspect of church life and to be on guard not only for the presence of bad doctrine but also the absence of good doctrine- not just in the sermons but in the hymns/praise music too.


Further Reading

Committee Head Covers Up “In Christ Alone” Controversy

What a poor witness. Huffington Post tweeted the following:
"Presbyterians engaged in a vicious hymnal battle"

Jerry Bridges on God's wrath, exhausted upon Christ


  1. This is just the latest in the PCUSA apostasy.

    They have interfaith studies with Muslims - and they are Muslims who support the Muslim Brotherhood.
    They have women “pastors.”
    They have for many years been soft on homosexuality to the point of saying a “clergywoman” didn’t violate church law when she “married” her lesbian lover. They’ve ordained at least one openly homosexual “pastor” - based on the 2011 vote to “ordain openly homosexual candidates to its ministry.” (Of course this came after many years of promoting homosexuality in the church and acquitting everyone who violated the PCUSA constitution my conducting same-sex unions or “marrying” their same sex partners). The last I knew from three years ago was that as a denomination they were seriously considering to redefine marriage to include same-sex unions and allowing their clergy to perform them.
    When Terry Jones burned copies of the Qur’an, the PCUSA in Utah gave away free copies of it.
    They sanction abortion, and even state that abortion can be a responsible choice. They have even supported partial-birth abortion.
    They passed a resolution supporting evolutionism and wanted it taught in public schools as “reliable scientific knowledge.”
    Back in 2006 their General Assembly said that“ Father, Son and Holy Ghost” have been used “to support the idea that God is male and that men are superior to women.” They gave some acceptable alternatives for those wishing to use a different label for the Trinity: “Mother, Child, Womb” and “Rock, Redeemer, Friend” were a couple cited.

    If a person considers themselves a real Christian, then they should never set foot in a PCUSA building.

    1. It doesn't take long for the flood of unbiblical doctrine to come in, does it? It's like saying, "if I take out only one brink from the Hoover Dam..."

      I was pretty saddened to see the Alabama Baptist editor speak about the wrath like he did. Satan isn't getting to just pulpits, but seminaries, and a newspaper with a voice that reaches into 80,000 homes and has 200,000 readers, never mind worldwide on the internet? Man, oh man, this vividly shows no place is an island safe from attack. Except heaven. Come soon, Lord Jesus!

  2. This is my favorite hymn of any I have heard so far. I particularly enjoy the version by Keith and Kristin Getty. It saddens me when people do not want to embrace the fullness of God--all that He is, wrath and all. As mind-blowing as the book of Revelation is, I enjoy reading it, too. I love the vivid reminders of His greatness, his power, his WRATH even--which WILL undo all of the evil in this world because of His great love for His people. Thanks for the post, Elizabeth. Melissa S.

  3. Dan said:

    It's a coincidence that you posted this article on the Presbyterians, because I have relatives that go to a liberal PCUSA church, and I sent some emails concerning their participation in such a church. The Presbyterian denomination may have been pretty solid back in the 1800's, but not anymore.

    Too bad they didn't consider doing research before joining a church--like avoiding any church that is a member of the PCUSA, because the PCUSA is a member of the leftist group the National Council of Churches, which belongs to the World Council of Churches.

    1. Hi Dan,

      I'm sorry your relatives are attending a less than solidly orthodox church. Good for you for attempting to contact them about it.

      As for your other comment linking to Apprising...I deleted it. Please Dan, I'd be leery about relying on the site. It uses sarcasm, casts aspersions, and impugns motives- all without offering facts or substance. Like this:

      "Perhaps we really ought to wonder what Dr. Mohler is trying to accomplish with Rick Warren."

      Um, no. Perhaps not.

      Now, I'm glad Dr Mohler visited with Warren- how else is Warren going to hear the gospel and learn from a man of faith?


  4. Just to clarify.... This is not "THE Presbyterian denomination." This is the PCUSA. It's liberalism like this from the PCUSA that caused a major split in Presbyterianism. A split which I'm thankful for due to the far more conservative Presbyterian denominations such as the PCA, of which I'm a member. Lumping all Presbyterians in with the PCUSA is about as accurate as lumping all Baptist in with the Westboro Baptist.

    1. Thanks for the clarification. I'll make the clarification in the article right away. I forget that not everyone clicks on the links to read the full story. Confusion undoubtedly not helped by Alabama Baptist's quote, "voted 9–6 not to use the song because the theology of the disputed phrase reflected the view of a part of the Presbyterian Church but was not appropriate..."

      Unsaved people don't make those distinctions, sadly. They just see Presbyterians fighting. And I really hate that. Same with Baptists, when Westboro shows up. Before I was saved I used to all Protestants were all the same and that Westboro represented all Baptists...

  5. It is the wrath of God to be poured out because of sin that makes the mercy and grace of God so valuable.

    Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

    The wrath of God being poured out on our Savior who came to be be the perfect Lamb of God.

  6. The timing of this article was kind coincidental because one of our associate pastors had just preached on the wrath of God the Sunday prior to seeing your article here. He spoke of how to trying to separate God from His wrath is to emasculate God. He also spoke of how you cannot have God's love without his wrath. For an example, he said, "If you love order, then you hate chaos." (Just one of a few, but that's the one I recall). So, because God is perfectly just, holy, and righteous, He then, by the very nature of that fact, hate sin. And it is that very hatred of sin which kindles God's wrath. What most don't realize is that, because of God's grace and mercy, he does not mete out his wrath every time one sins. So, many think to themselves, "Where is the wrath of God?" as they think that they have 'gotten away with it' when they sin. They do not realize, however, that God's wrath is being stored up for those that remain on Earth after the rapture. The tribulation is all about the full measure of God's wrath. Again, God's wrath was taken out upon Christ as he hung upon that cross. God's full indignation against our sin was carried out upon that cross. Praise the Lord!! So all who believe on Christ can escape God's wrath because it was already exhausted upon His own Son. What a God we serve!!

    1. Brian G, that sounds like a great sermon from a solid preacher. Pray for him! He is one of a kind these days

  7. The hymn, like so many others, was written out of imperfect human emotion to a perfect God and written solely to glorify Him and so that they can share this with others. Having a doctrinal problem with that hymn beggers belief. Unless the writer/composer said what they wrote was equal with scripture there is no argument to be had. Someone wrote a beautiful song because they were filled with love and gratitude for Jesus sacrifice on the cross and they couldn't contain it. The Word never exhorts us to take our emotions and experiences and see them as parallel to Scripture. I find removing the hymn and the fuss they have made over it to be just plain ridiculous and void of basic commonsense. Amen, come quickly Lord Jesus!

    1. By your standard, since sermons are "written out of imperfect human emotion to a perfect God" then we should not have a problem with doctrinally aberrent preaching, either.

      You said twice that hymns are "emotional" but they are also doctrinal. There is doctrine in hymns and we mus make sure that what we listen to or sing in church is consistent with the word and glorifies God. If there is something doctrinally wrong in a sermon or hymn, or if a set of hymns or sermons are absent an important doctrine, then it is a problem. Removing the hymn for the stated reason (the wrath of God is "not appropriate for the diverse membership as a whole") illustrates that the selection committee has lost their sense of discernment, and this is also a problem. We must always "make a fuss" when Jesus is diminished in any way.


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