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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Singing apocrypha

You have to realize how doctrinally hard nosed is my church before you will appreciate what I have to say today.  This is the church who chooses not to sing "and opened the life-gate that all may go in" when we publish "To God Be the Glory" in our hymnal.  The committee took the pains to modify Fanny Crosby's first verse to read "that we may go in" instead.  The original could have been construed to mean that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world, meaning every race, tongue and tribe have one, and only one Savior offered to them in the Gospel.  But just to jealously guard the doctrine of election, we needed to modify it.  Okay, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is doctrinally up tight--even paranoid?  I love this church, and partly for that reason.

What amuses me at this time of year is how we let sentiment, tradition or whatever it is, lead us into singing outlandish apocrypha.  Try "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" (Trinity hymnal #200).  Where is the Scripture that tells us Jesus was born at midnight?  The hymn makes no reference to Christ or His saving work.  Instead it anticipates a golden age that eventually comes over the earth with peace.  It leaves out reference to the saving atonement because it was written by a Unitarian pastor who didn't believe in the atonement.

How about # 204, "Away in a Manger"?  In the second verse baby Jesus wakes up, but no crying He makes.  How do we know that?  Is it sinful for babies to cry?

"See, amid the Winter's Snow" (#199) has great words, but what's this stuff about winter's snow?  Bethlehem gets plenty cold in late December (too cold for shepherds to be abiding in the field with their sheep), but snow is rare at this latitude and altitude.

I'm not outraged (should I be?).  I'm not crusading for hymn revisions.  I'm simply amused that my doctrinally hard nosed church sings apocrypha this time of year.


  1. your title got me...i find it hard to listen to non believers sing, "God and sinners reconciled!" without wondering what they are thinking. D Dempsey

  2. We have plenty of inconsistencies in the OPC. I truly wonder how "Midnight" got past Art Kuschke. As for Jesus' crying, it is fascinating to weigh what part of a baby's cry is an alert to feed or change him and what part is of the sinful nature, which Jesus didn't have. As for the snow, I have been in Amman, Jordan, (about 500 ft higher than Bethlehem) when the snow was coming down. I don't know the time of year of Jesus' birth, but it I wouldn't rule out December completely. It might have been a warm winter until that night.
    Don Buchanan