Scenes from Macon’s Juneteenth Freedom Festival
In 2013, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the mainline version of the Presbyterian branch of Christendom in the United States, deleted the popular Christian hymn “In Christ Alone” from its hymnal revision.
The hymn authors Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend had refused to change a line of the hymn. The church wanted the line “on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied” changed to “the love of God was magnified.”
The church has increasingly embraced the idea that God is fully love and the concept of his wrath needs to be downplayed. This drags into long term theological problems. If the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same unchanging God, why must so much blood be spilled in the Old Testament if God is all love. Trying to resolve it all with God’s love being magnified makes no sense.
The answer is that God loves us, but cannot tolerate sin. Sin must be punished for us to be able to have a relationship with the Creator. The punishment for sin is death — our own or someone or something else’s. Throughout biblical history, blood must be shed to make us right with God. On the Day of Atonement, blood was shed. On the cross, blood was shed. 1 John 2:2 states that “Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
John Murray noted, “The doctrine of the propitiation is precisely this that God loved the objects of His wrath so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of this wrath.”
This is a concept Abraham Lincoln knew well. In his second inaugural, Lincoln said, “If God wills that (the war) continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’ ”
Julia Ward Howe understood this when she wrote, “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me. As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.”
The blood shed on the battlefield was an atoning sacrifice for the nation’s original sin. The Union soldiers were the propitiation for our national sin. The Battle Hymn of the Republic quite exquisitely wraps around the whole idea of the War being about atonement and making right with God.
On the Union side, 596,670 soldiers were killed, wounded, captured, or went missing in action. 490,309 Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, captured, or went missing in action.
The New York Times has begun its 1619 Project, which it claims will “reframe” American history, tying everything to slavery. It is a less than stellar start with even basic facts wrong in its authors’ pieces. Remarkably, however, with Democrats calling for reparations and the Times rewriting history, both ignore that Americans spilled their blood to eradicate slavery. They atoned for it in a violent way. Any talk of reframing our history or demanding reparations cannot get past the 596,670 bodies of Union soldiers, no matter how much progressives might wish.
Erick Erickson is host of the Erick Erickson Show heard across Georgia.